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For second-grader with cancer, virtual learning is a positive

Tillery Phillips doesn't have to miss out on class and time with her friends when she is at the hospital getting cancer treatment now that she is virtual learning.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Families have different opinions about virtual learning this school year, but for some, it's the best thing to come out of 2020.

Online school means more freedom and inclusion for a Knoxville second grader battling cancer.

Tillery Phillips is a seven-year-old second grader who has battled cancer for most of her life.

"She just powers through," Tillery's mom Alana Phillips said.

This school year has been full of ups and downs, with new technology and big decisions; but, for the Phillips family, they see the positive side of virtual learning.

"I get to be with my family," Tillery smiled.

She's in Memphis for a month at St. Jude hospital, receiving a new cancer treatment. She is there so doctors can closely monitor how her new medication affects her everyday life.

Tillery and Alana spent nights in the hospital and in the Ronald McDonald House close by.

"Really we're just living life as normal just in a different place," Alana nodded.

In a regular school year, a long trip away from home like this meant she would miss school, have to do homebound work and miss out on classroom activities.

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"Instead, she's able to be with her class and she sees her friends everyday on virtual school, and so she's not missing anything, which is huge," Alana explained.

She still gets to see her friends and doesn't miss out on the holiday parties. They arrived in Memphis over Halloween weekend, so Tillery was able to put on her Bat Girl costume, grab some candy and log in to be with her class during the Halloween celebration.

Credit: Alana Phillips

"Everybody feels like they are missing out on that socialization, but for Tillery, she's getting the socialization she normally wouldn't have gotten," Alana nodded.

The flexibility is important for her. So when parents had to make the decision a few weeks ago about whether their kids would be virtual next semester or not, Alana shared Tillery's story in her classroom Facebook group.

"Immediately I had a few moms who reached out and said 'we'll keep our kids virtual so that she'll have friends,' and they have just been amazing," Alana said as she wiped away tears.

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Love, learning and support, all in the form of a virtual classroom.

Tillery is headed back to East Tennessee next week after four weeks in West Tennessee.

Alana encourages and reminds everyone to be as safe and diligent as possible.

"I shop at the same stores you grocery shop at, I go to Target where you go to Target [...] just because someone doesn't look sick, doesn't mean they aren't," Alana urged.

Tillery is immunocompromised and the Phillips family does their best to quarantine and have proper hygiene to keep her safe.

If you would like to follow along on Tillery's journey, you can "like" her Facebook Page named "Tillery is Loved".