A San Luis Obispo girl who spent the better part of 2018 at the Stanford Children's Hospital for cancer treatments is performing Friday night in a special ballet, using the same heart and perseverance that got her through chemotherapy.
Dozens of ballerinas moved swiftly across the stage Wednesday, carefully rehearsing each step ahead of Friday's Ballet Unbound performance at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center.
One of those dancers, Claire Noland, is not only excited to perform, she's lucky to be alive.
"I'm really working and trying hard," Claire, 8, said.
Claire's cancer has been in remission for about 18 months.
"Claire was diagnosed with Stage 4 T-Cell Lymphoma," Claire's mother, Lindsey, said. "It was systemic throughout her body and consumed her mid-brain."
Claire underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, which left her nauseous and weak. But her positive attitude never faltered.
"I never wanted to go away because I just loved all my doctors and nurses and my friends there," Claire said.
After months of treatment, Claire's parents asked how she wanted to celebrate being cancer free.
"She finished her very last round of chemotherapy and we said you can do anything," Claire's mother said. "She said 'my friends are still in the hospital, I want to go back and be with them.'"
They did go back, bringing hand made cards for each young patient in Claire's old ward, still fighting to survive.
"Just giving the love to other patients that are in the hospital fighting," Claire said.
Claire's kindness is even published in a book called Unselfish, a book that features children who have acted selflessly despite personal life challenges.
Once they returned home and returned to a somewhat normal life, Claire told her parents she wanted to take up dancing.
When she was enrolled in the Movement Arts Center Studio in San Luis Obispo, Claire still had no hair.
"I remember seeing her," Maartje Lawrence-Hermans, Claire's dance instructor, said. "All the other girls had their hair in buns and I remember thinking 'this girl has such strength to be here.'"
Underneath her daughter's strength, Lindsey Noland could see something else that took her breath away.
"One of the very first days when she was dancing, I was watching behind the window they have here and I was watching her move her body gracefully," Claire's mother said. "It felt like she was healing as she was dancing."
"I like to just move my body and just let go of everything," Claire said.
On stage, Claire takes back the body cancer once claimed.
"That's what all of us hope for our children, that they navigate really challenging situations with grace and beauty," Lindsey Noland said. "it wasn't all tragedy. there were some beautiful things that were part of it."
Claire's performance starts at 7 p.m. and a second showing is set for Sunday.