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Tue, Sept. 17

There's no business like show business, or so they say when the chips are down<BR>

When a child becomes ill and needs care at Phoenix Children's Hospital, her family's stay at the nearby Ronald McDonald House is often the silver lining – when the House has space.

Special to the Review/Les Stukenberg

Dorothy Sweeney plays in the ball pen at the Prescott McDonald's playland.

There's only so much room in a cardboard box, as one Chino Valley girl will help illustrate in a television commercial on Fox 10. Dorothy Sweeney, 6, will appear with Ronald McDonald to raise money to expand the Phoenix Ronald McDonald House.

"You just have to do your lines," she said of filming the commercial.

Although she's only 6 years old ("almost 7," she said with emphasis), she's spent three months (over a year-and-a-half period) in the Ronald McDonald House, which she called "a special place for kids who have special sicknesses like mine."

Dorothy entered the world Feb. 20, 1997, as a gift to her parents, Cindy and Gary, who'd lost one 4-month-old son in 1990, and two other unborn children before Dorothy. She weighed more than 8 pounds and was 21 inches long – and perfectly healthy.

The Sweeney family moved to Chino Valley in 1999.

Just more than five healthy years after her birth, in July 2002, a doctor at Birmingham Children's Hospital diagnosed Dorothy with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He sent Dorothy and Cindy to Phoenix Children's Hospital, where she began receiving chemotherapy.

Doctors constantly fed intravenous fluids into her body. They took spinal taps and also blood marrow samples from her hipbone.

Twenty-eight days after her diagnosis, and three bone marrow samples later, Dorothy said, she went into rapid early response.

"That means all the leukemia cells are out of your body, I think," she said.

Despite the chemotherapy's quick elimination of leukemia cells from Dorothy's body, doctors have her on a 26-month treatment program, which Cindy said helps get rid of the cells for good.

On her visits to the Phoenix Children's Hospital, Dorothy sometimes stays at the Ronald McDonald House, which boasts an outdoor playground, a library and an indoor play room, as well as very discount-ed rates for families who stay there.

Dorothy's treatment will end in August or September this year, but other children and their families will continue to come to the Ronald McDonald House.

"They're going to put more rooms in," Dorothy explained. "All of them are going to be private baths. I don't think sharing baths is good at all. What if people are sick? Then you'll catch their germs."

Dorothy has good cause to worry about germs, as doctors said she's more susceptible to them than healthy children are. She had to put a stop to her favorite activities (dance, T-ball, basketball, soccer, swimming and gymnastics), but will get back to those soon. She performed in Young Star Theatre's "Wizard of Oz," and will perform again in "The Music Man."

Just as Dorothy is helping raise money through her commercial, she also fills piggy banks for Habitat for Humanity.

A portion of the proceeds from Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals people purchase during February will go toward expansion of the Phoenix Ronald McDonald House.

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