Imagine being seven years old with a life full of parks, zoos, and swimming
pools. Then, overnight, your world turns into hospitals, chemo treatments,
That's exactly what happened to my seven-year-old cousin, Michelle, in August
of 1996. At a family pool party, Michelle wouldn't swim because her arm
bothered her. A few days later at the hospital, the doctor broke the news.
The x-rays showed cancer in her upper right arm. "You will have to start
chemo immediately. Later we will have to perform surgery. Your hair will
fall out, you won't be able to leave the house often, and you won't be able
to swim," the doctor said. Michelle didn't cry.
A few days before Thanksgiving, Michelle went into the hospital for surgery.
They removed the bone from her upper right arm and put a cadaver bone in its
place. The cadaver bone did not fit, and they had to use pieces of her
hip bone to fill in the places where it didn't fit. The doctors told Michelle that
she would never be able to use her arm again. Michelle stood up to walk and
screamed in pain. "Why are you trying to kill me?" she yelled at the doctors
as she grabbed her hip. Even though it hurt, Michelle kept walking and she
The chemo treatments continued, and Michelle stayed in the house.
Then, in June of 1997, x-rays showed a spot on Michelle's lungs. The doctors were
unsure whether it was more cancer or the flu. Michelle didn't cry.
The doctors treated Michelle for the results that would tell them if the spot
was cancer or the flu. The treatments caused the spot to disappear, and the
results showed that it was the flu.
Finally, in August of 1997, one year after it all began, Michelle had her
last chemo treatment. "I've got good news," the doctor told Michelle. "You
are now in remission. In three years, if the cancer hasn't come back, you
will be considered cancer free." Michelle looked at her mom and cried.
Four years later, Michelle is doing great. She has full use of her arm; even
though she was told she would never use it again. She is finally allowed to
swim. For Christmas, in 1997, her wish was to go to Florida and swim with
her parents, grandparents, and brother. The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them
all to Florida for a week. Michelle and another cancer patient from the
children's hospital had the honor of putting the star on the national
Christmas tree that year as well. Michelle is without a doubt one of the
strongest people I know.