For Hattiesburg's Noelle Carter and her family, the last six months have been tough, to say the least.
"Well, it's been quite a journey," said Noelle's mother, Andrea. "You always think it's not going to happen to you and then it does."
Noelle was diagnosed with stage three liver cancer just before Christmas. Noelle has had six cycles of chemo and had a liver transplant in April. While Noelle is cancer-free, she is still dealing with side effects and recovery from the surgery.
"We would do anything to make her smile, even if just for a minute because she has been through honestly so much," Andrea said. "It's been a really hard journey for her. "
The Carters have been in Houston, over 400 miles away from their home in Hattiesburg, during Noelle's treatment. That meant Noelle's seventh birthday, on July 23rd, would have to be hundreds of miles from family, friends and her home community.
For her birthday, Andrea said Noelle asked to get things in the mail. So, Andrea asked for birthday cards on Noelle's Facebook page, NoeStrong, where Andrea has been updating friends about Noelle's treatment. Andrea said the response was overwhelming.
"Surprising, overwhelming, emotional. A lot of different emotions wrapped up in one," said Andrea. "We just have been very overwhelmed by a very strong community support system and honestly strangers, people who live in states that we don't even know people in."
Andrea said as of Wednesday, they had received over 500 cards and packages from 16 states. She said many were from Noelle's friends and classmates, Pine Belt businesses, like the Waffle House in Petal and the Lamar County Sheriff's Department, churches, doctors and more. But, Andrea said they have also come from strangers and even TV stars.
"She did get something from Chip and Joanna Gaines," said Andrea. "So she thought was really awesome from "Fixer Upper," just a little signed card, but she loves HGTV."
Andrea said after the transplant, Noelle was on 20 different medications. Now, she's on ten with the goal to get down to one.
"We sometimes have trouble with our faith with all this going on, but she never does," Andrea said. "She never questions why this is happening to her or if she's going to get better, she just instantly knows that and that's important to us."
Andrea said the family hopes to return to Hattiesburg next week, but they will have to make trips back and forth to Houston monthly for appointments and other procedures.
If you'd like to send cards of encouragement to Noelle and her family, you can send them to Lin and Andrea Carter at 7550 Kirby Drive, APT 1231, Houston TX 77030.