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Avalanna Routh dies, breaking hearts, raising cancer awareness

September 27, 2012|By Amy Hubbard

Avalanna Routh, the little girl who made headlines because of her "marriage" to Justin Bieber, has died, bringing more attention to a rare but aggressive form of childhood cancer. Avalanna died Wednesday in a month when she and her parents had had an even higher profile -- Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Avalanna, who was 6, had a Twitter account in her name that just a week ago posted: "September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. My @SU2C video is now on YouTube: "

Last year, as The Times' Ministry of Gossip reported Wednesday, staff at the Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center threw Avalanna a wedding — to Bieber — knowing that Avalanna was a huge Bieber fan. There was cake, flowers, a singer. A Routh family friend's Facebook page, "Get Avalanna to Meet Justin Bieber," caught the attention of the pop star, who met and became friends with the little girl.

She quickly earned the nickname "Mrs. Bieber."

On Sept. 13, @Avalanna posted: "@justinbieber Trying to stay up late to see my husband on America's Got Talent #supportingmyman #mrsbieber"

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Dr. Charles Roberts, a pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, talked about Avalanna's struggle with atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor and the child herself: "She had an incredible effect on those around her."

Avalanna's parents, Cameron and Aileen Routh, had become tireless in their efforts to raise awareness of AT/RT -- with which Avalanna was diagnosed at 9 months -- and funds to cure pediatric cancer in general. The disease is described on the Dana-Farber website as "a very rare and fast-growing tumor of the central nervous system."

"They knew from the beginning that the cure rate for AT/RT was about 15%," Roberts said. 

But, due in part to aggressive treatment, Avalanna lived well past the usual prognosis of a year. 

Still, as the years passed, Roberts said, for the Rouths "it wasn't long before it became harder and harder to believe they'd be within that percentage."

Cancer treatments for Avalanna stopped about two months ago and on Wednesday staff members at the cancer center were in mourning, as were Bieber and other celebrities who had come to know Avalanna through her parents' participation in the Stand Up 2 Cancer charity.

"She had this infectious way about her," Roberts said. "People are taking it very hard."

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