MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minneapolis girl who captured the hearts of both WCCO viewers and staff has passed away.
Last year, 8-year-old Gracie Joles was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. Her parents, both longtime Star Tribune photographers, captured her fight against cancer on camera.
Gracie passed away Wednesday morning surrounded by her parents, Liz Flores and David Joles, and siblings Spencer and Allison at her side.
Gracie’s illness began with a severe headache in November 2010, and doctors soon found a fast-growing tumor in her brain. The location of the tumor was in the medulla, an area doctors declared inoperable and so rare, they only see about one case in Minnesota every two years.
While Gracie went through radiation, her photographer parents found healing by taking photos of her journey. Her father says he was conflicted about being a photographer and being a dad.
“I have a tendency to be drawn to stories more about the human struggle than ever before,” David Joles told WCCO last March. “As journalists, we are taught to capture the moment good or bad, and sometimes it’s harder to take a picture, you feel like you are crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed. But every once in a while, there is a magical moment.”
Gracie was known for doing cartwheels in hospital hallways, or one day, she flashed a peace sign before she was strapped down before a radiation treatment.
Her pictures reached people across the world including a woman in Tampico, Mexico who saw a photo of Gracie and called her home to say a prayer.
Even though she knew she was sick, she always reminded her family that everything was going to be all right, and she was surrounded by “too much love.”
At first it seemed hope did heal. Gracie’s tumor briefly stopped growing, but in late summer, doctors told her family she had only a few months left. That’s when Gracie realized many of her personal dreams. She received an official proclamation from Gov. Mark Dayton, and named her new Yorkshire Terrier puppy “Dayton” after him.
She swam with dolphins in Florida. Through the Make a Wish foundation, Gracie also met her idol, pop star Katy Perry. She listened to Perry’s song “Firework” nearly every day during her radiation treatments.
Liz Flores told WCCO, “I will pray for God now that he will have a little firework in his arms. My heart is broken into a million pieces. But, I find comfort that she was able to leave this world with her father David, me, her sister Allison and her brother Spencer at her side and join the other Angels in heaven with Jesus. She was a child of faith and she is my true champion and the bravest child I know.”