It's a big day for Team Davey.
One that the family of four will face with incredible hope and unshakeable faith as 7-year-old Elise Davey undergoes an MRI.
Her older sister, Naomi, and parents, Chelsy and Paul, have traveled more than 300 miles from Warren to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital to find out the next steps in treating Elise's pilomyxoid astrocytoma, a cancerous optic glioma.
"We will take it head-on, whether it's great news or not so great news," Chelsy said last week during a video interview. "We've taken it together as a team, as a family, and I guess that's been the biggest thing; we are so grateful for our journey, people, our [U of M] family. They've been our home away from home, and every one of them has made an impact.
"We're just so grateful. They've become friends, they've become family, and when you're walking this, they have an understanding, and it helps," she added.
The family's "journey" began Jan. 5, 2018, which they call "Brave Day" — for good reason — and each anniversary is a milestone, but the courage of Elise and her family is not limited to one day.
"I don't know if 'celebrated,' maybe 'honored' is a better word in our family," Chelsy said. "We give thanks for the people that have been put in our journey from day one. She was diagnosed with an optic glioma, a tumor on her optic chiasm in her brain — "in my optic nerve," Elise interjected with unbreakable spirit — and we immediately got to meet Dr. Christopher Moertel. He showed up that night in his jeans, and we were smitten, at ease, is probably the best way of saying it, upon meeting him.
"We knew we were in the best place we needed to be, and we had a fighting chance and a lot of hope," Chelsy added.
Elise underwent a brain biopsy that resulted in the formal diagnosis of pilomyxoid astrocytoma, and chemotherapy treatments began immediately. Every other week, the family traveled from Warren to Minneapolis.
There have been some ups and more downs, but the family just keeps "rolling with it."
An experimental trial didn't work, so they pivoted.
Radiation treatments began in August 2019 and concluded Oct. 2.
"We had monitored closely the radiation response, and in January, we had a devastating MRI. It was a response to the radiation, some swelling," Chelsy said. "Dr. Moertel immediately said, 'We've got to combat this,' so we immediately returned to the every-other-week chemo and did that from January to Aug. 18."
In the face of adversity, the Davey family has continued to smile.
Elise heard "Dr. Hotel" instead of "Dr. Moertel" when she was younger, so they got him a special jacket that says "Dr. Hotel."
"He's got a loud laugh," Elise added, and hospital staff members on the call concurred.
Elise rang the bell after completing the chemotherapy treatment two months ago, and the family's focus shifted to today's MRI.
"Throughout this whole journey, there's been ups, there's been downs, but the constant really has been, if you think about the story, is … what an absolute blessing to not only have the knowledge of our team but the different options of our team," Paul said. "We just talked about how many options we had when we went in there, and what an absolute amazing thing to go in and have options and answers."
"And research, because we can't get where we are without it," Chelsy added.
Paul has adopted a tradition of not shaving between Elise's MRIs.
"I am really looking forward to shaving," he quipped. "I'm going to rock an awesome mustache for about 10 minutes."
The Daveys have appreciated the support from family and friends in their hometown and beyond. Paul works at CHS Ag Services where co-workers made Elise a desk in the front office and taught her how to answer the phones — "Post-It Notes all over the place."
The family was able to attend a couple of Vikings games when they were in town for Elise's radiation treatments for a span of six weeks.
"We were so excited, and how cool it was, watching [our daughters] with headphones on, doing the SKOL Chant, it was complete relaxation to just chill," Paul said.
They've also appreciated the spaces at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital that include Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, which usually features sports simulators, bubble hockey and other activities, but it is closed right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Normally the tight end and teammates would be preparing for holiday-themed in-person visits to the hospital this month, in November and December (like the one where the Davey family first met Rudolph). The in-person visits are not happening during the pandemic.
Instead the father of 3 surprised Team Davey with a virtual visit last week.
Kyle, whose brother is a cancer survivor, said: "I'm excited to hang out for a while, even if this is how we have to hang out nowadays."
Elise replied: "Any way possible is nice!"
Kyle: "I love your jersey."
Proudly displaying the white 82 on her Purple jersey, Elise said through her huge grin that is currently missing her top two front teeth: "Thank you. It's honoring you!"
Elise and other patients at the hospital "attended" this past Sunday's game in the form of photo cutouts that were purchased by Caribou Coffee for the Vikings annual Crucial Catch game. Caribou Coffee additionally donated $15,000 to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, which has become a "home away from home" for the Davey family and others.
Rudolph is going to sign Elise's cutout and send it to her to continue the encouragement.
In addition to the MRI, Elise also has an ophthalmology appointment, "which will be pretty big."
"It will determine where we are at in this journey, if we continue on a break or we — we give thanks for every day, that's just how we roll with this," Chelsy said. "The one previous to this, there were some trends showing that we hoped would continue, so this next one will really tell us what's going on and give us, hopefully, a good path forward."