By Janelle Burrell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Some children with cancer can have extreme side effects from treatment and with weakened immune systems, other illnesses can become life-threatening. One little girl had it all — and she is still smiling.

Six-year-old Vercelee is finished with cancer treatment.

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“Been off treatments since December. She still has monthly checkups and there’s still things she is battling from the effects of the chemo,” mother Amber Kulzer said.

She says it has been a long, long road — two and a half years long.

It started with fevers just about every other week when Vercelee was 3. Doctors chalked it up to infections. Then Vercelee had a high fever for four days straight.

“There was no way she could go through it any longer so I just took her into the hospital. They could tell that she was really really sick. She wasn’t eating, she wasn’t able to even move. She was just completely unresponsive,” Kulzer said. “Over 24 hours of her not even being able to open her eyes.”

The head oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota told her it was cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“It’s hard to process – one, you’re processing that your child has cancer and you have to process everything that’s about to happen to her and it has to happen immediately,” Kulzer said.

“I had notebooks, I asked every question you could possibly think of. I wanted to stay on top of it. I wanted to make sure she was getting the best treatment,” Kulzer said.

Kulzer went into fight mode but it was tough, she had other children to take care of including Vercelee’s twin sister Vivianna.

Stepdad Stephen stepped in to take over at home

“I was pretty shocked by the whole ordeal. Not what you expect to hear. It blindsides you,” he said.

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“She did really good for a little while and then she lost her hair which was tough because they’re identical twins and they’ve never looked different,” Kulzer said.

Vercelee and her twin sister Vivianna

Vercelee and her twin sister Vivianna

Vercelee also lost the ability to walk, use her hands and use the bathroom by herself.  So in addition to cancer treatment, she had physical and occupational therapy. And then extreme side effects and illnesses because of her weakened immune system.

Vercelee got meningitis — twice — she also got very sick from a respiratory illness known as RSV, as well as hand, foot and mouth disease.

“She would just be screaming. She couldn’t even stand, even laying down was painful,” Kulzer said.

Pain, tough treatments and the pandemic.

“COVID hit and it was complete lockdown,” Kulzer said.

Mom left work and her sisters stayed home from school. And the bills and worries piled up.

That’s where Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation came in to help. Through the foundation’s COVID-19 relief fund, mom was able to pay bills and put food on the table. Alex’s also sent care packages with items that were hard to find during lockdown, like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

“All the stuff you couldn’t find that our family desperately needed,” Kulzer said.

Especially since Kulzer was also pregnant at the time, giving birth to baby Roman in June of 2020.

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So now, Vercelee is happy to play with her siblings and do gymnastics!

Janelle Burrell