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Everyone meet Michelle, my friend and a fellow cheerleader from high school. Michelle and I were put in the same stunt group my Sophomore year (Michelle’s Freshman year) and I remember our days in cheer camp together, sweating and complaining (hehe), yelling and celebrating, and even that one time I punched one of the girls in our squad so hard her nose started bleeding (sorry Monica!). Of course that was an accident, and we still had so much fun. Ah, the good old days! : )
Michelle didn’t continue cheer after that year, but instead pursued her passion in soccer. Naturally, because I didn’t get to see her at practices everyday, we didn’t keep in touch as much as we had before. During my senior year, Michelle was diagnosed with cancer, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I got to hear her story and all that she’s been through. You are such an inspiration to all, Michelle! For more on Michelle’s journey, read below.
Oh Michelle, you are beautiful! : )
Just over five years ago I was hit with the news that I had a metastatic glomus jugular tumor. Donâ€™t worry, I had no idea what that meant either. At just sixteen years old, on April 20, 2006, I went in to St. Vincent Hospital in LA to have a large benign blood-filled brain tumor removed behind my right ear. The sixteen-hour surgery must have been an amazing operation to witness, which would explain all the hospital staff in the Operating Room. I lost a lot of blood, but was given multiple blood transfusions while on the table, and the doctors managed to sacrifice only a few of the nerves on the right side of my face leaving me deaf and causing paralysis to the vocal cord and inside of the mouth. Immediately after surgery a body scan took place, and while I was in the ICU the doctors made a dreaded visit to the waiting room and told my family the news that I had over thirty other tumors in my bones: down my spine, ribs, and femurs.
The surgeries continued over the following six weeks. I had spinal rods put in to stabilize a collapsed vertebra, a vocal cord implant, and a feeding tube, just to name a few. After being in that hospital for six weeks, I was then transferred to Childrenâ€™s Hospital Los Angeles where I began treatments.
â€œWhere do we even start?â€ seemed to be the question on everyoneâ€™s mind. No one had ever seen this cancer before. My treatment cycles became an ongoing experiment, discarding every chemotherapy that did not have a dying effect on the tumors. I had different kinds of radiations and chemotherapies, and when none of those worked I was asked to be a part of a clinical trial in Iowa, and I was the last patient to make it in before being submitted to the FDA. It seems it must have worked because just months later, on February 26, 2008, my scans showed dormant, non-active tumors throughout my body. Treatments stopped, but I was still given a Zometa infusion to strengthen my bones over the following year. My oncologist said if the tumors are not growing, then there is no need to continue treatments. I may just go through life with dead tumors everywhere.
As of April 20, 2011, I have undergone sixteen surgeries. I have become quite the pro when dealing with pain and needles. With a cancer in which no one else in the world has, we celebrate five years of fighting! Through all the ups, downs, pains, surgeries, depression, anger, loneliness, bitterness, and frustration, I would not change one thing about the last six years of my life. It was so hard letting go of the girl I was before the diagnosis, but who I am today is so much more than I ever could have been without this experience. God has used me in unimaginable ways, and will continue to do so until His work in me is done.
“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'” (Isaiah 6:8)
All I have wanted to do over the last few years is help other young cancer patients, like myself, get through these trials without feeling alone and misunderstood. I went through four years of feeling that way, and I feel that it is my calling to make sure that no other cancer patient ever feels the way I did. God somehow made me strong enough to get through those tough times on my own. The people He has put in my life today made it so worth the wait.
I am now twenty-one years old, and I attend Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, where I am studying to be a sign language interpreter while taking classes for my GE. When I graduate I hope to transfer to UCLA and study psychology and focus on my writing. I would like to become a psychologist and work with cancer patients, and I also hope to write a book about my cancer journey, which I am in the process of writing right now.
I want to thank Eileen for putting together this shoot to celebrate my life. It had been years since we saw each other back in high school, and was an absolute pleasure being photographed by her. She has such a beautiful heart and outlook on life, and God is using her in so many ways.Â Love you, Eileen.
Oh Michelle, I so enjoyed getting to catch up with you and hearing your story through this session. You are truly, truly, an inspiration to everyone! I am so proud of you, girl! Love you tons!
You can visit Michelle’s website here.
What an amazing story! Thank you Michelle and Eileen for sharing this with us. God is truly sovereign in everything we do and this is especially visible in Michelle’s life from what I can see of her story here. 🙂
She is absolutely most amazing person I have ever met. 🙂
That’s amazing!!! Praise GOD!
Inspirational story and the photos are beautiful Eileen! 🙂
you were a cheerleader eileen?!?!?! you should have been rockin’ it out on the dance floor with me!!!! :DDD
wat an amazing story!! She looks beautiful and strong!
She was in my math class in 8th grade at Oak! What an inspiration!
Beautiful job! What an inspiration to us all.
Hey Eileen, fancy seeing you at Jon & Karen’s wedding. I’m very touched by this story especially since my gf’s grandparents and 2 of her aunts have battled cancer multiple times. I would love to win this photoshoot and really appreciate if you would use it to tell their story.
wow that is an amazing story. God Bless you Michelle.
what an amazing woman and amazing life! thank you, Michelle, for your courage, for sharing your beautiful story, and for being a bringer of hope.
So inspirational. Went to her blog… she is amazing! Love her tattoo also. 🙂
so encouraging… I think I have a little taste of how it was like for her since I been visiting hospital very often these months (my mom had a surgery not too long ago, now my step dad is in it waiting for his surgery). Praise God for His love and good works. Now it encouraged me to believe even more for my dad to be completely heal 🙂
I love the tattoo quotation…did she come up with that? clever.
love that tattoo! beautiful portraits 😀
Thanks everyone!!! 😀