- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Two-year old Nova Pettigrew was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer six weeks ago. Her father, former Deli sound technician and musician James Pettigrew, noticed something was wrong when running turned to walking, then limping and then crawling.

Pettigrew had never heard of RMS, a rare form of cancer that affects nerves and has hampered Nova’s ability to move, but almost immediately, when doctors at OU Children’s Hospital started intense rounds of chemo, he quit his job to be by his daughter’s side, The Norman Transcript reported (https://bit.ly/1nnMVZz ).

“Any parent would say it about their kid, but she’s a really special girl. She’s really smart. Even after the doctor gives her injections and takes blood, she gives them high fives,” he said. “She’s a fighter. We kid around and call her the dragon warrior. She’s really into dragons for some reason. She’s getting pretty heavy doses of strong chemo and she gets right up. She never complains about anything and she keeps trying. She’s beautiful. I could go on and on about her. She’s got the best attitude in the world. For her age, it’s really shocking how much she knows what’s going on. We’ve been in the hospital pretty constantly, but she’s a real happy little girl.”

A former member of the Flaming Lips’ protégé band Stardeath and the White Dwarfs, Pettigrew said he gave up that musician’s life when Nova was born.

“I’ve been a musician my whole life, but I chose her over the childhood dream,” James said.

Now, the friends he made along the way and the tight-knit community of musicians at The Deli, 309 White St., have come together to put on a benefit concert for their old friend and his young daughter. Bartender Doug Milliken saw the website Nova’s Godfather set up to help in her fight against cancer and the idea struck. A few phone calls later and the vision became reality.

Rainbows are Free, Klip Springer and $69 guitar took the stage for Nova last month.

“It’s really tough, because it grows around nerves,” Pettigrew said. “A lot of medication … a lot of chemo. And you know, she got used to walking around and going where she wanted by the time she was a year old. Now, she sees other kids doing it and it can be tough, but it’s amazing how good her attitude is.”

Pettigrew said it may seem over the top, but he and his daughter try to keep a sense of humor when things get tough, and it’s a fitting name for a toddler who’s strong enough to shuck anything short of four nurses.

“It’s not without reason she is really tough, truly, a born fighter. It’s amazing. She’s the dragon warrior princess, last of her kind,” Pettigrew said.


Information from: The Norman Transcript, https://www.normantranscript.com

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