Graysen Hooper has been through so much.
The 2-year-old girl from San Jose, California, was diagnosed with B-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in November 2018. She endured an intense, eight-month treatment that included two trips to the hospital each week, weekly intravenous chemotherapy and a monthly spinal tap to test her bone marrow and insert chemo into her spine. The treatments ravaged her immune system; outside of her hospital visits, Graysen couldn't go anywhere in public.
But she's battled. Now in the next phase of her treatment and her immune system stronger, the little girl nicknamed "Amazing Gray," joined by parents Patrick and Heather and baby sister Quinn, dropped the puck when the Sharks hosted Hockey Fights Cancer night against the Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center on Saturday.
"It was cool," said Patrick, digital director for the Sharks. "We did some fun little practice routines at home, but it was a wild card to see how she was going to perform. We stepped on the carpet and weren't sure how she'd react, but she did great. It was awesome to see her walk out there and recognize the moment, and her little smile as [Sharks captain] Logan Couture rounded the corner was awesome to see."
Graysen, Patrick and Heather also will be at SAP Center when the Sharks host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSCH+, NHL.TV). Heather, director of the Sharks Foundation, said Graysen has been resilient.
"I don't think she even remembers what life is like before this, which is probably a good thing," Heather said. "She just kind of looks at all these treatments and visits to the hospital as exciting, and she's very lucky that she hasn't had a ton of side effects. She hasn't shown a ton of side effects to the chemo she's received, so she doesn't get nauseous all that often. She's able to be energetic. So as far as her outlook [on fighting cancer], on it goes. We've been very blessed, and even through some of the hardest times, the hardest months, we've been able to enjoy and find ways to be around each other more. As a family it's brought us closer."
Patrick said Graysen's attitude has buoyed the entire family.
"[When she was first diagnosed,] there was this fear that overcame me of, even if all this goes well, it's so disappointing to think, 'Oh, we're going to miss out. Everything we're doing is so new, we're going to miss out on these typical child developments and all this fun and joy of toddler life,'" he said. "But much to my surprise, and a thankful surprise, her personality has blossomed despite all of the awkwardness of multiple nights in a hospital. She's developed into this amazingly charming girl. She has a great personality, she's goofy, loves to laugh and play and she's high energy. We're very thankful that her personality has driven us through this treatment plan to very surprising degrees."
In August, Graysen began the maintenance stage of her recovery, which will take approximately two years. She takes a chemotherapy pill every day, has a week of steroids per month and makes a monthly visit to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Jose. But she can go outside and play and take part in more activities, including trick or treating. On Halloween, per Graysen's wish, the Hoopers dressed as the family from the cartoon "Peppa Pig."
Video: Meet Amazing Gray
Graysen's fight has been inspiring. Amazing Gray, a GoFundMe page Heather created as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, has raised more than $30,000 for the organization. The Hoopers also encouraged people to donate blood or platelets. The family said the support from family, friends and the Sharks has been overwhelming.
"It's sad that so many people are impacted by cancer, but there's also such power when you can bring people together and share stories and raise funds and utilize the platform we have in the professional sports world to do good and to make a difference," Heather said. "And that's what it's all about."