Alexis Kostelecky waddles past her mother. Her curly red hair bounces. The Velcro fastenings on her sneakers pop open. She plays in the grass. She chases a bug.
Life at 3 years old. Most think it's simple, easier than puberty and bills and old age.
Her mother, Kathy, sees Alexis stumble. Her mother smiles. But then she looks worried. Mike Kostelecky, Alexis's father, looks very worried.
A little more than two years ago, Alexis was found to have cancer.
She and her family, from Yucaipa, Calif., were hanging out in front of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday. They were there to hold up a yellow candle and squeeze Alexis tight as they participated in a vigil for those affected by cancer.
When she was 4 months old, doctors diagnosed cancer of the kidney. She is in remission now. But every time she gets sick--every fever, every sore throat--it's a major visit to the doctor. She had a fever recently. When she recovered, her parents thought about skipping the trip to Washington. But they said they had to come.
A candlelight event like last night's was held last year. But not many children with cancer came. This year, though, a group of children with cancer came to show that even the young can face possible death. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12,400 children a year are found to have cancer.
"Every time she gets sick we think, 'Is she going to be one of the statistics?' " said Kathy Kostelecky. "We are here to increase awareness that children are fighting cancer, too."
About 5,000 people attended the event, organized by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Queen Noor of Jordan appeared as honorary chairman of the event. Noor's husband, King Hussein, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma this year. Organizers said the event was meant to highlight the need for more research so others can survive cancer.
The children's delegation--called "Tiny Voices: Kids Get Cancer Too"--was organized by Laura Ortiz, of Royal Oak, Mich., and Cathy Espinosa, of Murrieta, Calif. Espinosa said she noticed at last year's event that there weren't enough children representing their struggles with cancer.
"I got on the phone the next day and said we need to do something," Espinosa said. She said she and Ortiz raised $4,300 and got hotels to donate rooms. They were able to bring 10 young survivors, ages 3 to 21, to the event.
They arrived Wednesday night. During the trip, they toured the White House and took in a WNBA practice.
Megan Hickey, 13, said she has survived bladder cancer. She said she has seen many of her friends die, one who had cancer in his brain.
"I feel good being here," she said. "People here understand."
Joseph Baran, 21, learned he had leukemia when he was 18. He recalled that people used to tell his nurse not to get too emotionally close to him because he was so sick. He beat the cancer and he married Robyn, his nurse.
Megan, Alexis and her mother and Joseph and Robyn Baran soon began walking into the center of the crowd, where people gathered to talk about getting more funding for cancer research. They said they hoped they would have a lot of time for the fight.
CAPTION: Kathy Kostelecky laughs and wrestles with daughter Alexis at National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship vigil.
CAPTION: Cancer survivor Joseph Baran, right, comforts friend Rick Price, who lost his father to cancer 13 years ago.