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Michelle is a 29-year-old mom of two living in California. Creative, hardworking, and an expert piñata maker, she is also a survivor of childhood cancer. She wants to share her cancer story in order to give parents her perspective on a child’s battle with cancer. She hopes that telling her story will “provide encouragement and hope to not only the kids, but their parents and caregivers as well.”
Michelle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was only four years old. Her family had moved to the U.S. from the Philippines two years before. Michelle is certain that had her parents stayed in the Philippines, she would not have received the medical care she needed to survive.
Michelle remembers, “Being a normal girl. I went to preschool. I was funny, cute and happy. Then one day I couldn’t walk.” After countless doctors’ visits, she was diagnosed over the phone by Dr. Daniel Niebrugge, an oncologist in Tacoma, WA.
Little Michelle underwent two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, had a Hickman line attached to her chest, and spent a lot of time in bed at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. “I remember freaking out every time I woke up from a procedure because I would always be in a different place than when they put me to sleep,” she writes. “Dealing with my lymphoma did get easier as the time went on. The constant surgeries, treatments, and procedures soon became routine.”
Because Michelle was often immobile, she did a lot of paper crafting and developed her interest and skill in art. “Making art was a way for me to be free. It gave me legs when I couldn’t walk. My imagination took me out of my hospital bed when my body could not. That was the only time I forgot about the world around me.”
Still, dealing with cancer was difficult and took a toll on her self-esteem. She envied the “healthy kids” with their “long, flowing hair” and their energy and physical freedom. She felt ashamed of having had cancer. Later, as a young adult and then a mother, she began to see her cancer journey in a new light and realize that It was those childhood hardships and feelings of self-doubt that had given her the courage to do everything she has accomplished as an adult.
Michelle will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership in June. To give back, she is starting a nonprofit, “Crafts For A Cause,” to raise money for art supplies for cancer patients and parties to celebrate important days.
Quote: “I am excited to start this next journey of my life and am looking forward to the continued growth and development of myself.”
Information provided by Michelle Gonzaga
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