Dolled up: Missing senior prom was not an option for Carissa. Here, she has her hair styled the afternoon of prom, April 24, in a suite at the Davenport Towers. Carissa chose a fashion she saw Paris Hilton wearing. “I didn’t want it because it was Paris Hilton,” she said. “It just happened to be on Paris Hilton’s head.”
High style: With her hairdo finished, Carissa gives stylist Shane Walters a high-five in their makeshift Davenport Towers salon.
All smiles: Carissa and her friends laugh after someone takes a funny photograph before the girls and their dates head to dinner and the prom.
A windy wait: Carissa and her friends huddle against winds whipping through downtown Spokane as they head for their limousine.
From celebration to chemo: The morning after prom, Carissa went back to chemotherapy at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. Here, Carissa’s mother, Gwen Ashcraft, comforts her as the treatments start to drip through her IV.
Taking control of the situation: Carissa chose to shave her head when chemotherapy caused her hair to thin and start to fall out, just as she had two years earlier during her first bout with follicular lymphoma. “I got more compliments with my head bald than when I had hair,” Carissa previously told a reporter.
Web of support: Friends watch, tears in their eyes, as Ashley Nelson shaves off the last of Carissa’s hair May 11, 2010, at Monique’s Salon in Spokane Valley.
A sibling’s embrace:Britnee Outen caresses and kisses her younger sister Carissa’s clean-shaven head. Carissa “shrugs it (cancer) off like it’s nothing. To her, this is just another step we need to take,” Britnee said.
Determined scholar: Carissa sneaks in a laugh with friends in her Advanced Placement history class at North Central on May 13. Carissa was recently accepted into Gonzaga University, a dream since childhood, but will defer entering until Fall 2011.
Daily perseverance: Carissa talks on the phone while Rhonda Rasmussen, right, a visiting nurse, changes the dressing around her chest catheter May 13 in her north Spokane home. Her mother, Gwen, removes a necklace.
Kindness of strangers: While working on math problems at home, Carissa wears a bracelet given to her by a regular customer at Albertson’s, where she works. The gift was just one example of the outpouring of support Carissa and her family have seen. “How do you thank them?” Carissa said. “People are doing so much.”
Still smiling: Standing outside her room at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, Carissa visits with Gregory Bibb on May 17. Gregory had been staying in a room adjacent to Carissa’s but was preparing to leave the hospital that day. At left is Carissa’s chemotherapy IV pump. Though she wears a smile, those closest to her say this round of chemotherapy has been rougher than the last.
Attacking the cancer: Carissa’s intense chemotherapy was meant to create a temporary remission so her stem cells could be harvested, medical officials said. On May 29, a week before graduation, doctors called Carissa back to the hospital to collect the cells. Here, Carissa waits with her mother to have a line implanted into her femoral artery for the harvest.
The road ahead: A machine harvests Carissa’s stem cells, which will be transplanted after a couple more radiation and chemotherapy treatments in Seattle. The procedure is scheduled for late July, followed by at least 10 days of isolation. “I can handle being alone,” Carissa said. “Being alone alone is completely different.”
Ovation: Everyone in the entire INB Performing Arts Center, including her North Central High School classmates, stands and applauds Carissa during graduation ceremonies June 5.
Proud mother: Gwen races to embrace Carissa after the North Central High School graduation ceremonies.
Circle of strength: Carissa and her close friends celebrate their graduation with a group embrace at the INB Performing Arts Center.