Updated: 12/24/2013 6:21 PM
Created: 12/24/2013 4:22 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier
Children everywhere will soon be heading to bed, anxiously waiting for morning to come -- and for the unwrapping to begin. But for one young Minnesota girl, diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, Christmas might as well have come on Dec. 2 in Nashville, Tenn.
This time last year, for one central Minnesota family, the happiness of the Christmas holiday was tinged with sadness.
"A year ago today was when she lost her hair. She lost her hair right before Christmas," said Scott Libbesmeier, the father of 8-year-old Tatum Libbesmeier.
Late last year, doctors discovered a tumor on the iris of Tatum's left eye -- a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma.
"It was devastating, to hear those words. It's a parent's nightmare," Scott Libbesmeier said.
Tatum underwent surgery, and then chemotherapy.
"That was the most difficult part for us, was to just watch her being miserable for 6, 7 months of chemo and be bed ridden and in the hospital," Scott said.
But soon, the Make-A-Wish Foundation came calling. Tatum had her wish ready.
"To meet Luke Bryan," Tatum said.
Luke Bryan, the country music megastar.
And on Dec. 2, her wildest dream came true. Make-A-Wish flew the Libbesmeiers to Nashville, where Tatum met Bryan, sang with Bryan, and toured his tour bus.
"I didn't imagine it would be like that," Tatum said.
"To have such a star go out of his way to make us feel special and make Tatum feel special was amazing," Scott said.
To top it all off, Tatum had a front row seat for Bryan's performance at the CMA Country Christmas special on ABC.
"For those four days, we didn't have cancer, we didn't have doctor bills, we didn't have doctor appointments -- we just lived for the moment. It was amazing," Scott said.
"They're cowgirl boots. He gave them to me," Tatum said of the signed boots that are now her prized possession.
But her family said one gift they received recently remains more precious than all the rest -- word that Tatum is cancer-free.
What a difference one Christmas makes.
"To look back and smile instead of being in tears like we were last year -- it's amazing," Scott said.
Tatum and her family will also be taken by limo to Bryan's concert in Fargo in February.
The Libbesmeiers document Tatum's journey and highlight more details about her rare form of cancer in this YouTube Video.
Tatum's CaringBridge website also contains more information about her continuing treatment and recovery.
A fund has been set up to help offset the Libbesmeier's medical costs. Donations can be made to:
Tatum Libbesmeier Fund
P.O. Box 955
Elbow Lake, MN 56531