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“It’s not your life expectancy, it’s your size”: Terminally ill girl inspires others

Terminally ill girl inspires others

Terminally ill girl inspires others


Penny Doerge lived each day with joy, humor and courage.

At a young age she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a condition that can cause tumors and, in her case, led to terminal brain cancer. She had 15 surgeries on her brain and leg.

“She made the decision to live her life with joy and optimism,” said her father, Chad Doerge.

As someone who knew Penny, you would never know that she was sick. She always chose positivity over pain and hoped to inspire others to find beauty in imperfection.

“This is how Penny lived her life,” her father said. “She taught us a lot. She was quietly very brave.”

Penny died in November at the age of 16.

“Like we said, it’s not your lifespan, it’s your wingspan,” said his mother, Kate Doerge. “Penny lived a better life in her 16 years than most people in 100. For that, we couldn’t be more grateful.”

His family recently released penny flight, a foundation dedicated to inspiring others to live life the way she did. After just a week, the butterfly effect took off and her friends have spread her message across the country, with the help of comedian Jimmy Fallon and former NFL quarterback Eli Manning. The mission is to make much-needed advances in medical research on neurofibromatosis and related diseases.

“I think it goes back to that idea that there’s inspiration in the way she lived her life and she’s a quiet teacher in everything she did,” said Chad Doerge.

Kate added: “She was a gift to all of us. And we know she lived her life’s purpose.”

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