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A 'Happy Warrior:' 11-Year-Old Rehanna Lydon Loses Cancer Battle

Evans City Middle School will hold a luncheon on Saturday to celebrate Rehanna's life.

It’s no coincidence that Rehanna Lydon’s Relay for Life team was dubbed Rehanna’s Warriors. The 11-year-old fought cancer with strength and determination, and she did it with a grin.

Tom Hallman, principal at Evans City Middle School, where Rehanna would have been a sixth-grader in the fall, called her the “happy warrior.”

“She fought the battle with a smile on her face at all times,” he said in a statement. “She was an inspiration to all of those who knew her.”

On Monday, Rehanna lost her fight with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of muscular cancer with which she was diagnosed at age 8. After going into remission, she was diagnosed for a second time with the disease in 2010.  

Her last weeks were spent in and out of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC for treatment. She died at the home she shared with her mom, Marcia Lydon, and her two younger sisters in Renfrew.

"She told us she was done and took the oxygon off herself so that we didn’t have to make that decision," Lydon said. "She died peacefully, and I was so thankful for that."

Lori Silvester, a family friend, said Rehanna always put others before herself.

“She just was so courageous and strong, and she cared and worried about other people and not herself,” Silvester said. “She was amazing, and I think so much more mature than a typical 11-year-old. She was a strong fighter.”

Earlier this summer, Silvester’s 11-year-old daughter Kate — a friend of Rehanna’s and a fellow student at Evans City Middle School — and her son, 8-year-old Harrison, put together the Alex’s Lemonade Stand at Cranberry’s Fun Fore All facility. The event raises money for childhood cancer research.

Silvester said Rehanna’s health began to fade shortly after the fundraiser.

“I think people were thrown for a loop because she looked so healthy,” she said. “The lemonade stand was the last day she was really good. She had severe pain from that day on.”

Doctors discovered two tumors pressing on Rehanna’s spine. Lydon said this caused her to be unable to walk. Rehanna spent almost two weeks in the hospital for treatment before coming home July 15. 

After Rehanna returned to the hospital for more treatment, an ambulance brought her home Friday to be with her family. 

Once there, Rehanna again displayed her inner strength. Silvester said the Lydon family on Saturday celebrated Rehanna’s sister Victoria’s 9th birthday.

Although she was using oxygen and a wheelchair, Rehanna insisted on being taken outside so she could photograph fireworks set off at the party.

“It was just really amazing,” Silvester said.

In June, Rehanna gleefully informed Patch of her love for baking and the vanilla cake she recently had created with orange zest. One of her favorite shows was Cake Boss on TLC, and she once briefly met cake maestro Buddy Valastro in an alley behind his shop in Hoboken, N.J. Rehanna was in the area for a girls-only trip to New York City, which she liked better than Disney World.

When she grew up, Rehanna wanted to be a cake decorator and own her own shop.

She also loved Vera Bradley bags, the color purple, Irish step dancing and Sir Alexander, Prince of Brownsdale — better known as Prince Alex — the horse given to her through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“I love, love, love Vera Bradley,” she sang out as she showed off her collection of purses.

At the time, Lydon said all the nurses at Children’s Hospital found Rehanna to be charming, as did the teachers and staff at her school.

“Rehanna Lydon was a brave, inspirational, beautiful, and courageous little girl who was wise beyond her years,” said Lauri Pendred, principal at Evans City Elementary School. “She was full of life and hope, with an endless spirit of strength.

"Rehanna fought this battle with cancer like a true warrior, never giving up. Rehanna truly blessed and touched many lives during her brief eleven years.”

Silvester said her daughter was taking Rehanna’s death hard, but a rainbow they saw outside the Lydon house comforted them both.

The blue skies opened up just for a moment Monday and poured down rain, she said. By the time the Silvesters ran to get Rehanna’s mother, the rain had stopped and a faint rainbow was in place. Silvester said she believes it was a sign from Rehanna.

“It had just rained enough for us to see a slight rainbow,” she said. “It was gone as fast as it came.” 

Viewings for Rehanna will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday at the Boylan Funeral Home in Evans City. A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John Lutheran Church in Mars. Lydon said she and others plan to wear their purple Rehanna's Warriors T-shirts.

A luncheon to celebrate Rehanna’s life will be held in the Evans City Middle School’s large cafeteria after the burial.

Kathleen Sauers August 02, 2011 at 11:58 PM
This is a wonderful tribute to what must have been a lovely young lady. You can tell that she made an impression on you and everyone lucky enough to have met her. Blessings to her family, friends and loved ones.
wreynolds August 03, 2011 at 12:23 AM
An Amazing Soul! She will always be remembered and that smile will be etched in our hearts! Gods strength and love for her family! EC Teachers love you Rehanna!
Slydon August 03, 2011 at 07:34 AM
I first want to thank you for the above artical about Rehanna. But I must disagree about Rehanna losing her battle with cancer. I know it appears she lost since she is no longer here on this earth with us, but by God's grace, Rehanna WON her battle! If you were blessed by knowing her, you were able to see with your own eyes how she beat cancer every day. She did not let it define who she is. The way she lived her life, especially the last three years, has been a true testament to the power of God in her life. Even though she was going through many difficult treatments, she continued to truly live each day to the fullest. She attended school, dance classes, raised money at many events for cancer research, spoke in front of audiences about blood donations, appeared on television more than once to speak of her battle and to raise awareness about cancer, and above all was an extreamly loving, caring, funny, smart, sweet, amazing and beautiful daughtger, sister, granddaugher, niece, cousin, and friend. She rarely complained about her struggle, instead she focused on the good in her life. If you met her, you would have never of know she was sick, except for a few outward signs of chemo.
Slydon August 03, 2011 at 07:48 AM
I also wanted to share with everyone (and I hope you don't mind Ruthann) "Rehanna's Warriors Cry" that was writtnen by Ruthann Forgie for Rehanna and her team at Apollo's Realy for Life this past June. "I am a warrior strong and fearless. I'll fight no matter how weary I get. I will fight for my brothers and sisters and for me. I'll wear my armor with pride. I will never let my shield down. With God in front of me and Jesus at my right and the holy spirit at my left. Cancer will no longer scare me or make me give up. My warriors will be behind me at all times. With God as our leader we will conquer this horrible monster. No more pain, sickness, sorrow, or losing this battle to cancer of any kind. So come on warriors and rise our swords high and into the heart of this monster we go. Three cheers for our Lord." So as I hope you can now see, Rehanna did not lose, she WON!!!
Leslie Uriss Spehar August 03, 2011 at 01:30 PM
I think Rehanna is an example to us all on how to be a fighter, a warrior, and a winner. She is an inspiration on how to embrace life and tackle the challenges that come our way. God called his little warrior home, but her legacy lives on in her family, her friends and everyone whose life she touched.
barbara August 03, 2011 at 02:08 PM
My deepest sympathies to Rehanna's family at this time. She sounds like she was a wonderful daughter and a brave warrior.
Kelly McCarron August 03, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Many blessings and prayers from our family. May Rehanna rest peacefully in heaven.
Lisa Klenoshek August 03, 2011 at 06:19 PM
My prayers and sympathies to Rehanna's family. I was lucky to have met Rehanna at the EC STOMP walk last May! She radiated strength and courage as well as a sense of humor and is an example to us all on how we should be living life!
Dana Osselborn August 05, 2011 at 12:40 AM
My memories of Rehanna are of her always smiling. She was always in good spirits and was so brave in her fight. She will be greatly missed. Good-bye sweet angel.
JHawthorn August 06, 2011 at 01:23 PM
For Shawn and Marcia.....the little fighter was an inspiration to all who knew her. She taught us how to live without the trivia that seems to bother living these days. No one knows the time or place but one thing is for sure.....God wants us to love each other on a daily basis and Rehanna did that every day whether she realized that or not. May God bless her.

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