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Personality isn’t a problem for Mia, a vivacious 5-year-old who loves to sing, dance and play with her SuperSib sister Gabriella. She constantly makes her family laugh and rarely complains about anything. Last spring, Mia was bothered by foot pain for several weeks, but doctors continuously said her foot looked fine. She was also acting quite lethargic, very outside the norm for Mia.
After the pediatrician discovered abnormal results in one of Mia’s blood tests, they referred the family to a hematologist. Upon meeting, they informed Mia’s family that her neutrophil count, a type of white blood cell that fights against infection, was low and they should come in immediately if she gets a fever.
Mia’s temperature spiked at a party soon after and they rushed her to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with Pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) several days later. Her family spent the next month at the hospital.
“The hospital stay was really hard on all of us… because we were separated, taking turns to care for Gabriella and trying to maintain some sort of routine for her,” said Melissa, Mia’s mother. “And Mia was on a steroid while she was in the hospital, which totally changed her personality.”
Staring down a two-year treatment schedule felt daunting for Mia’s mom, particularly at the onset of diagnosis. She envisioned two straight years in the hospital, swapping familial responsibilities with her husband. Following the initial month-long stay though, Mia returned home and the family found a semblance of normalcy. They sketched out the treatment schedule which is on target to finish in August 2019, if all goes according to plan.
Throughout it all, Mia has taken the treatment process in stride with few complaints. All she asks is that she gets to help the nurses with her labs.
“She likes to help the doctors take the blood and put in the flush, the syringe of saline, before they access her,” said Melissa.
Mia’s enthusiasm in the hospital is matched by her exuberance at home where she shows little signs of the rigorous treatment she’s undergoing. It hasn’t caused any physical changes to Mia yet, but just like her attitude towards her cancer so far, Mia isn’t worried about it. Whenever her mother warns her about losing hair, she says everything will be fine, all she needs is a hat!
Mia is buoyed in her fight by the bond with her sister, 8-year-old Gabriella. Gabriella’s taken on more tasks around the house to help her parents and cheers up Mia whenever she’s not feeling well. Oftentimes, Mia will plans activities for them to play when Gabriella gets home from school. She’s so attached to her sister, she even tried to sneak on the bus with Gabriella when she returned to school this fall.
“She’s been looking forward to the day when she can get on the school bus with her sister ever since Gabriella started Kindergarten 3 years ago,” said Melissa.
Mia’s cancer is currently in remission as she remains in the interim maintenance I phase of standard Pre-B ALL treatment. Her mother’s hope is that Mia can recover quickly with no lasting side effects, have a normal childhood and grow to become a successful and compassionate woman. They hope Mia can act as an inspiration to other kids by showing such strength at her young age.
For their family, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation represents the hope that a cure can be found to prevent any child from having to go through cancer treatment.
Mia continues to fight her disease, knowing that hopefully one day instead of sneaking on the bus, she’ll walk on just like everyone else and finally go to school with her sister.
Information provided by Melissa Bento, Mia’s mother
Updated September 2017
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