Nelly Strong: Then, Now and Always

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

With chills and tears in my eyes, I read this article in The Fall River Herald News by Marc Munroe Dion and immediately knew what I had to speak about on my next episode of The Silva Lining. The beautifully written and poetic piece encompasses how powerfully our community's hearts and hopes were captured by this 17 year old's spirit, courage and vitality.

Death’s lie is that nothing counts in the end. Cold skin. Deep grave.
Death’s truth is that nothing counts. Cold skin. Deep grave.
How can one statement be a lie and the truth at the same time?
We don’t answer questions like that in America today. We like everything to be one thing or another. We like our dividing lines thick and dark. We like our ditches deep. We like our fences high and strong. We like to know the other side is wrong.
And we like death. We like war and bombs and a gun on our hip. We like tough talk.
Death laughs at us, or sneers, because nothing counts in the end. Cold skin. Deep grave.
We are savages gathered around a fire, specks in the universe, inventing the first god, scared of the night and the storm and death.
Because nothing counts in the end. Cold skin. Deep grave.
Jenelle “Nelly” Eaton, 17 years old, held the thoughts of a poor, sometimes despairing, frequently quarrelsome city for some weeks.
Much given to loud argument, to dirty rumor, to character assassination, Fall River does not welcome the stranger and is sometimes not kind even to the native born.
So it was our miracle that this one girl, in dying, held us to a better standard.
For a while. Nothing lasts forever.
Nothing counts in the end. Cold skin. Deep grave.
If we cannot be better people forever, at least we were better people for a while because we hoped so much for one young girl who fought for life with the courage we attribute, often falsely, to athletes and celebrities
As advanced as we are technologically, we don’t know much about death, only that it robs us. Sometimes death makes us stand closer to each other, if only to hold back the chill.
Maybe it doesn’t mean much but a whole city fought with Nelly Eaton, cried with her, hung on every turn of her condition, smiled with her.
We could not die with her. She goes alone.
She was brightness. She was 17 years of life, warmth, the focus of a city’s wishes, rich wine poured out on stony ground.
She loved us and we loved her and she left us, as we knew she would, as we hoped she wouldn’t.
Maybe we learned something from Nelly, though humans don’t learn easily and too often we forget the most important lessons we are taught.
We are what we always have been. We are frightened people, scared of the dark, but capable of great bravery and heroic love.
Nelly, we did not want you to go. We did not want you to go. We did not want you to go. There was more life left for you to live and we wanted so much for our wishes to pour through you like new blood, to keep you alive.
You struck a spark in us, gave some of your warmth to a city built of hard granite and cold brick. We won’t forget.
Cold skin? Deep grave?
Warm light. Deep peace.
— The Herald News, by Marc Munroe Dion

Almost 20,000 people on Facebook - friends, family, community members, strangers; plus countless children and their families, fellow patients battling cancer alongside Nelly, inspired and comforted by her caring, positive and vibrant spirit; to the hundreds of friends, teachers and families she amazed as an active, funny and lovable cheerleader and student - she touched so many lives before, since and after that fateful day when she woke up almost two years ago and simply could not walk.

The support Nelly and her family have received during this journey of testing and figuring out "the Unkown" and surgeries and intense treatments has been taxing and tumultuous. Along every step, Nelly has been aware and included in every decision - and as a family, the decision was made to seek alternative treatments. Research, serendipity and the power of connection through support networks led them to medicinal marijuana and a new understanding of CBD, THC and the added help of a natural over-the-counter supplement called Citicoline - it inhibits the absorption of THC so that the patient can intake more CBD without the mental effects of the higher levels of THC.

Nelly's parents, Laura and Joshua Eaton joined me in the studio for this week's episode of The Silva Lining. These two amazing people, in the midst of their "title wave" of grief are being fueled by a mission. They are committed to helping as many families as they can to NOT have to someday say, "I wish we would have known," or "I wish we would have known sooner". They are the epitome of Grief Into Action, like my past guest, Mrs. Rose Grant, author of "I Left My Memory on a Bus Somewhere" coins in her book.

Like Rose, they plan to write a book about Nelly's Journey, hoping to help inspire other families and raise awareness to alternative treatments, aiming to also advocate for these treatments to become more readily and financially available to families while also pushing for more thorough research and support of these remedies from the medical communities and the government. This inspiration doesn't just come from them, it was a direct calling from Nelly herself. It is her wish that other kids, other families are spared the pain she went through. 

Nelly herself. She was the source of peace and strength in her final weeks. Her spirituality was her guide and she gave strength to her family and friends at a time when they were so worried about her. Nelly wanted them to be at peace. Nelly wanted them to take on this mission. Nelly wanted them to check on her fellow patients and make sure they weren't scared. Nelly was and will always be the inspiration for love, generosity, peace and action.

Her parents spoke a lot about some of the remedies they found that greatly improved Nelly's quality of life in her last few months. I want to share some of the links to what we talked about here:

The Rick Simpson Story

Medicinal Marijuana is Safe for Children

Here is the Clinic that Nelly so desperately wanted to get to in Texas:

Burzynski Clinic

Laura and Joshua are very committed to helping as many families as they can - especially families battling pediatric cancer. They are working on a book and a website. In the meantime, you can email me with any questions you may have and I will connect you with Laura and Joshua at and you can also "like" the Facebook page Pray For Nelly for updates as they arise.

UPDATE 3/24/2016 - The Nelly Strong Foundation, 501(c)3 Non-Profit is being formed right now. Nelly's spirit and courageous battle brought our disconnected community together. This foundation, inspired by her spirit, will continue her legacy, help people receive alternative treatments for more than just cancer and ultimately unite a community for generations to come. Keep updated by joining the  Pray For Nelly  Facebook page, and I'll be sure to have Laura and Josh back on the show when everything is official. #TeamNelly

The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor, St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union. We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at