Yellowknife besties overcome effects of childhood cancer with music, laughter and straight talk

These two Yellowknife besties have used music and laughter to take on the long-term effects of one girl's childhood cancer treatments.

'Shiri's always been there for me, and I'll always be there for her no matter what,' says Grace Clark

Grace Clark, left, and Shiri MacPherson, right, have participated in several Terry Fox Runs together. (submitted by Grace Clark)

As 16-year-old Shiri MacPherson lay in a hospital bed in Edmonton last month, she received a text from her best friend Grace Clark.

"It was the night before my surgery and I was low-key freaking out," said MacPherson, who was suddenly told that there was a tumour on her spine during her routine check-up.

Clark's text read: "I wrote you a song."

"She sent me a recording of it, and it was pretty great," said Shiri.

'The less-than-10-per-cent girl'

MacPherson is a survivor of childhood cancer. At age three, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Wilms cancer — a type of kidney cancer that can spread to other organs such as the lungs, liver, bones and brain.

"And then I won," said MacPherson.

'We’re gonna be like those two old ladies in the nursing home, who just makes everyone crazy. We’re gonna be like an old married couple. That’s us,' says MacPherson, right. (submitted by Grace Clark)

But when doctors told her "out of the blue" that she had a 99-per-cent-benign tumour in her spine in January, MacPherson said she was still worried.

"I was kinda stressing out," she said, adding that she was always used to having slim chances of survival.

"That's just who I am. I'm the less-than-10-per-cent girl."

But her best friend was by her side for every moment of it, ever since Grade 4, when the two bonded through passing notes in class and their mutual love for Taylor Swift.

The two besties have been friends since grade four, when the two bonded over passing notes in class and Taylor Swift. (submitted by Grace Clark)

It was later in Grade 8 when the girls started developing a deeper bond.

"That's when we started talking about real things going on in our lives," said Clark.

"I'm pretty sure it was in gym class after a beep test," recalled MacPherson. "I hate running. I thought I was gonna have a heart attack right there."

Shiri's  always been there for me, and I'll always be there for her no matter what.- Grace Clark

"Because Shiri has like half a lung left. It's difficult for her to run, and so we just talked about it," Clark said, finishing MacPherson's sentence.

MacPherson radiation treatments severely damaged parts of her lungs as a long-term side-effect. Her pulmonary issues have prevented her from competing in gymnastics — something she loves.

Shared love of music

"I think music plays a big part in our friendship," said Clark.

The two have created dozens of beautiful melodies and lyrics together and even host open mic nights together at a local coffee shop in Yellowknife.

It was through this bond that MacPherson was able to help Clark in 2014, when Clark's older sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

The girls host and play their music at open mic nights in Yellowknife. (CBC)

"I hadn't really gone through anything like that especially in my family. So I really appreciated Shiri being there for me. That definitely brought us closer together," said Clark.

Last month, when MacPherson learned of her tumour,  the girls had to, yet again, battle through another cancer scare together

"We're not gonna take it," texted MacPherson, the lyrics to one of their shared anthems.

"No, we ain't gonna take it," Clark texted back. "We're not gonna take it anymore."

When MacPherson came out of the surgical room, she immediately asked for her phone.

"I FaceTimed Grace right away. I didn't even talk to my parents," she said.

'Shiris always been there for me, and i’ll always be there for her no matter what,' says Clark, left. (CBC)

"There's some funny videos of Shiri on morphine, if anybody wants to watch," added Clark, both of them bursting into laughter.


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