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Last Birthday: Little girl lives life while she can

UPDATE: Lila May passed away on Sept. 5.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- Lila May Schow has spent most of the past three years in the hospital or at the doctor's office.

On Friday, she spent the day at the beauty parlor, putting on a princess dress made just for her and arriving to her birthday ball in a horse drawn carriage.

Lila has a rare childhood cancer, neuroblastoma that experts at hospitals in Portland, New York and Michigan can't get rid of.

"We don't know how much time we have left," says her dad Ryan Schow, "and we have put up one hell of a fight. We just want to give her everything she deserves."

Her dad says it all started with a Facebook page, and over the past year, the effort to make what could be Lila's last birthday the best one ever has taken off around the world.

Stephanie Laur of Union Event Co. and the rest of the "princess patrol" figured out a way to turn the old Butler Banking Building in Hood River into a castle for the night.

Most of the people who have donated things for the party -- from food to music to costumed actors to balloons to artwork to Lila's custom-made princess dress, don't even know Lila.

"I had the pleasure of meeting her when I presented her Cinderella dress to her a few days ago," says Lauer. "I was able to show her the space, and she had her little tap shoes on and was dancing with her father."

But all these people didn't want this to be just a birthday party.

They wanted it to be a prom, even a wedding day.

To let Lila live as much life as she could in the few months doctors think she has to live.

One doctor thought an experimental treatment might work, but decided her body wasn't up for it. The treatment might be worse than the disease.

Still, Lila hasn't given up.

"One time I was with her," says her grandma Mari Fuellenbach, "and we met a man whose dog had cancer and she asked him, 'Did your dog beat cancer?' And the man said yes. And she said, 'I beat cancer too."

Hundreds of people showed up at the party in downtown Hood River Friday evening.

The very best part will come at the end, when Lila's dad will get down on one knee and ask her to marry him.

Just so she can hear that from a man who loves her more than anything in the world.

So she can feel grown up.

Since she most likely won't make it that far.

"We wouldn't have gotten this far," says her dad, "and been able to fight this hard, without all the help we've been given. We're so very grateful for that."

"It's all about making a little girl smile."

As Lila danced with her dad at her fifth birthday ball, she did just that.

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