Cancer free.

Just two words strung together, the term has the power to change lives. Just ask 13-year-old Alana Cook of Columbus.

After Alana went through six months of radiation and chemotherapy to treat a papillary tumor, a rare and malignant form of brain cancer, a magnetic resonance imagine (MRI) test on July 7 came back showing no evidence of disease, or NED. It’s the medical term commonly used to describe a cancer that is in remission.

When her doctors explained the test results, “cancer free” was the only thing Alana recalls hearing.

“I think I was in shock,” Alana said of hearing the news. “(My mom), of course, was crying.”

For Holly Cook, Alana’s mother, tears were a natural response to months of worry, treatment and separation from friends and family coming to an end.

The life of the Cook family — which includes Alana, her mom and her dad, Alan — was dramatically changed by Alana’s diagnosis, which forced them to relocate to Chicago in the winter for radiation therapy, then return to Indiana so Alana could receive five rounds of chemotherapy at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in the spring.

The Cooks were required to spend three days at the hospital in Indianapolis every time Alana underwent a round of chemotherapy, which was administered every 21 days.

At times Alana said she did feel nauseous, but other standard afflictions that often accompany chemotherapy evaded her. No fevers, no infections, no blood transfusions.

“She set the bar high,” Holly Cook said.

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.