A "Christmas Carol" with its own little miracle

'TIS THE SEASON for holiday celebrations, and we'll be sampling many of them over the next few weeks.
To start us off, Lee Cowan takes us to a theater with a new take on a much beloved character: 

Every year around this time, a Chicago tradition comes to life at a Chicago landmark.

The Goodman Theatre has been decking the halls with its version of "A Christmas Carol" for the last 40 years.  Throughout its long run, there have been eight Scrooges, 13 Bob Cratchits, and 29 Tiny Tims.

But few have played that little character quite as big as this.

"To play such an inspiring role, it's really, truly amazing," said Paris Strickland. At ten years old, she is the first girl to ever land the role of Tiny Tim at the Goodman.

"God bless us, everyone!"

"This is, like, my first big production!" she said.

"Well, you sure nailed it tonight, didn't you!" said Cowan.

Her parents, Lauren and Ralph Strickland, thought so, too.

The secret to why she seems so natural in the role of Tiny Tim may be because she's lived it.

"I get a little teary-eyed at some of the scenes," said Lauren, "because I think about where she was and where she is now."


Paris Strickland as Tiny Tim in the Goodman Theatre of Chicago's production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

CBS News

When Paris was only nine days old, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Neuroblastoma, a rare and deadly form of childhood cancer.

"They told us because she was so small, and because the tumor was so large, that most likely she wasn't going to make it through that start of chemo," Lauren said. "They basically told us to prepare to not have her here after I just gave birth."

They watched as she went through every round of treatment imaginable, including four surgeries and hundreds of doses of chemotherapy.

Despite all of that, Paris' cancer kept coming back, again and again.

"When I look at my scrapbooks, I see, oh wow, I went through a lot," Paris said.


Paris Strickland.

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A lot, indeed, for three long years. That's when Paris' scans finally showed no more evidence of the disease.

Still, the cancer left its mark. She's smaller in stature than most kids her age, and because the tumor had wrapped around her spine, she now walks with a limp.

Cowan said, "Obviously you got this part because you're a good actress, not because you were a sick little girl. And yet, a lot of people are going to see those similarities between Tiny Tim being a sick little boy, [and] you were a sick little girl. Do you get that connection?'

"Yeah, I do. I do."


Paris Strickland with correspondent Lee Cowan.

CBS News

"And does it change the way you play the part? Does it help you in some way?"

"It helps me that I'm not the only one out there that has gone through all this," Paris replied. "If I looked back to Tiny Tim, he was sick, but he got through all of it. And I was sick and I got through all of it. And I like to put what happened in the past behind me, sometimes use it to move forward."

She needed some of Tiny Tim's strength --- the whole family did -- when cancer visited again. This time, it was her mom who got the diagnosis.

Ralph said, "We definitively know the foundation is strong in our household. "We can overcome pretty much anything."

Lauren beat her cancer, too, which makes the holidays that much more merry.

To celebrate every Christmas, Paris and her little sister, London, get a new ornament for the tree.  This year it was a Tiny Tim.


Paris Strickland puts the newest ornament on her family's Christmas tree. 

CBS News

Cowan asked, "What do you want people to walk away from, when they leave the theater tonight? What do you want them to take home from watching?"

"I want them to think that if I can battle cancer, they can truly do anything, and that they should love Christmas and cherish all those memories," Paris said.

Charles Dickens couldn't have said it better himself. 

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