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Cancer survivor, 11, offers inspiring message
Cancer survivor, 11, offers inspiring message
By SUE HOFFMAN
She remembers when her life was filled with needles, blood work and spinal taps, when she was upset about losing her hair and thought she looked like a boy. She remembers when she was nauseous from chemotherapy and spent months in the hospital.
Amanda Miller, a fifth-grader at Orchard Middle School in Solon, recalled last week how she was diagnosed with childhood leukemia one month before her third birthday. Her treatment lasted two years and two months. She is now a six-year cancer survivor.
"Some of you may wonder how I got through it," she told 310 fifth-graders and parents at an early morning Orchard School fund-raiser, "Support: A Breakfast for Cancer. "Well I'll tell you, with the love, prayers and support from my family, doctors, nurses, neighbors, complete strangers and good friends.
"My message today is one of hope and determination," she said. "No matter what bumps you hit along the road of life, you have a choice - you can choose to let that bump knock you over or you can get over it one step at a time. You may fall but you have to keep moving."
"Support: A Breakfast for Cancer" was a two-day event, starting with Amanda's presentation last Thursday. Last Friday, the sixth-grade program featured three teachers who have had breast cancer. Cindy Bomeli, a former Orchard School faculty member now teaching at Lewis Elementary School, Carolyn Parent, a retired Lewis School teacher, and Barbara Rooney, who is on medical leave from Orchard School, shared the insight they gained from their experience.
Mrs. Rooney, who calls herself a "one-year cancer survivor" and continues to undergo treatment, said she has learned, "People are more important than things. The people in your life are the most important to get you through this."
Now planning a trip to Disney World and a hot-air balloon trip with her family, she added that it's also important to have a positive attitude. Sometimes, on the most difficult days, she said she finds something she's thankful for.
Both Mrs. Parent, a two-year survivor, and Mrs. Bomeli, a five-year survivor, agreed with Mrs. Rooney on the importance of people. They added their observations.
"You have two choices," said Mrs. Parent, "to go around thinking 'poor me' or you can be so very positive. I chose to be positive."
Mrs. Bomeli said she learned that when bad things happen, "you can still have fun and you must." In addition, she praised those who planned the program. She said, with everyone's help, "There will be a day when the last person will die of cancer."
"Support: A Breakfast for Cancer" was initiated by sixth-grader Jacob Zweig and his sister, Olivia, a fifth-grader. Both knew families touched by cancer. The breakfasts, as well as bracelet-sales were planned and coordinated by the Zweigs, together with the school's leadership group, "Students Participating in Educational Activities for Kids." Altogether, over 100 student and parent volunteers were involved, as well as several restaurants and food suppliers, who contributed to the breakfasts.
Together, they raised some $10,000, including $3,000 in ticket sales and $7,000 in bracelet sales. Proceeds from ticket sales for the breakfast will go to the Gathering Place East in Beachwood, which offers support and education to those touched by cancer. Proceeds from bracelet sales will be used by the guidance department at the school for counseling services for students affected by cancer, and financial support for affected families at Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, according to school officials.
"This event helps us see how we can support each other," Principal Michael Acomb told people at the breakfast. "It's an amazing town filled with amazing people."
He said that students throughout the school wrote to "their heroes," cancer survivors they knew or knew of, to speak at the event or write about their experience, and there was an overwhelming response. Among those who responded were cancer survivors Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and four-star general, and Lance Armstrong, professional road-racing cyclist.
Many people have been touched by cancer at the school, including parents of their friends, according to Jacob and Olivia.
Mr. Acomb said that a fifth-grader is out of school going through cancer treatment.
Jacob thanked the speakers "for being brave enough to share their stories."
"Cancer is a major issue in the world," Olivia said. "It felt good to do something to help."
"It's heartwarming to see this," said Eileen Saffran, of Orange, executive director of the Gathering Place, who attended the breakfast. She said it was important for children to "observe a community together" and to raise awareness about the Gathering Place "if there comes a time."
"What can you do?" Amanda asked her audience. "Be supportive of family and friends battling cancer. Make them laugh, be a good listener, and a good friend. Try to help kids who are sick and stuck in the hospital by making up care baskets filled with stuff that could take their minds off of what they are going through.
"Walk in the Relay for Life in Solon on June 12, give your hair to 'Locks of Love' for those who lost their hair, or simply help that bald person feel accepted. Together, we can do a lot."
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