For Teryn Buster, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started well before the holiday. In early November, Columbus-based insurer Aflac flew the 10-year-old, her mom and grandmother to New York City for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Macy’s Parade Studio and VIP access to “Balloonfest” to see up close the newest balloonicles (self-powered balloon vehicles). “We looked like tiny little ants standing next to them,” said Teryn, who is from Lithonia. Her favorite, of course, was the Aflac Duck, decked in a blue hat and scarf and holding a heart to his chest. Teryn is very familiar with the inimitable quacking fowl. She is being treated for sickle cell disease and cancer at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Seeing the duck on TV Thanksgiving morning was pretty special, too, Teryn said. “It was big and it was very cool. I liked how they made it seem like the Aflac Duck was really sledding down the road.”
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I like to draw and sing and dance. I like to sing pop songs from Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. I like butterflies.
Q: What about school?
A: I’m in the fifth grade. School is kind of tough for me, but it is definitely helping me. My teacher pushes me to help me learn more and more.
Q: You are dealing with some illnesses, correct?
A: I was born with sickle cell and I got cancer in March. Sickle cell is when your blood cells are shaped in a crescent form. When they have to go through the tiny blood vessels in your body, they get stuck and cause pain.
Q: Have you been in pain your whole life?
A: Pretty much. Usually just in certain places like my leg, my knee and my wrist. I also have asthma. When that kicks up, it causes a sickle cell crisis and horrible pain in my chest.
Q: How did you feel when you learned you have germ cell cancer?
A: I was very sad. I didn’t know if I was going to live but I have calmed down. I think about how lucky I am to meet all these wonderful people who have helped me get better and helped me have fun.
Q: Let’s talk about the fun. Had you ever been to New York before?
A: This was my first time. We went to lots of different places. We road in a horse and carriage. We saw Central Park — I climbed on a big rock. And we saw the Aflac balloonicle, which was really cool.
Q: Where did you see it?
A: At the Macy’s studio in Moonachie, New Jersey. We got to see all of the different floats and balloons. I saw Olaf and the Grinch. I also got to see the models and how they made what was in this year’s parade. I saw all of the things used to make the floats and the balloonicles. They use a lot of glitter!
Q: What was your favorite balloonicle?
A: The Aflac Duck. The Grinch was my second favorite. I love that one.
Q: Did you like watching the parade on TV?
A: I liked how the floats were one after the other. It was very coordinated. The floats looked great and I enjoyed how they had people singing on top of some of them.
Q: What advice do you have for other kids who are facing a serious illness?
A: Continue to have hope.