VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In 2016, an estimated 15 million cancer survivors lived in America, and that number is expected to rise to 20 million by 2026.
Most of that increase is directly related to advances in cancer research.
That is why 10 On Your Side is deeply committed to Crush Cancer. All money raised goes to cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Our local Crush Cancer effort centers around 14-year-old Michaeyla Nadeau, who is living with cancer.
She lost a leg, but not the will to live, to love, to survive, and to be a positive influence wherever she goes to talk about her survivor’s story.
“I am still in my battle with cancer,” says Nadeau to about 100 fourth graders who gathered in the gym at Alanton Elementary, “and I’m still going to the hospital for daily check-ups, and I take chemo at home, and it is oral and I just take pills.”
She’s asked what she thought when first diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is the most common type of bone cancer.
“The only thing I was thinking of, am I going to get super sick? Am I going to have to be in the hospital? Is my hair going to fall out? Those were the three main things I knew were going to happen.”
Asked what was scarier, losing your hair or losing your leg, Michaeyla replied, “I lost my hair first. I grew it back, and after my hair was in then I lost my leg. I can’t tell you what is more scary, people will look at you either way.”
She took a question on how cancer left, but then returned.
“We weren’t taking any chemo or anything for a little bit, and it did come back in my leg behind my knee, and in my thigh, and my lungs, so it can come back.”
What led to the final decision to amputate her leg?
“Obviously, I was holding onto my leg for as long as I could, hoping I was going to be able to walk again, but once the cancer started growing I decided to get the amputation — ultimately I think it was the better decision.”
How did she feel after the amputation?
“I was pretty depressed how my leg was going to get removed, like my leg was going to be chopped off … after I got it done, I felt free of that weight like my leg weighed a lot. It actually felt better after the amputation.”
The point of this is Michaeyla is taking her message to others to educate.
The question was: what do you tell other people?
“You have got to keep fighting, and really stay strong, because that’s what I do everyday in my battle every day.”
There was a question about whether people look at her differently.
“What if we were all born with one leg? Then someone with two legs came into our world, how would we look at them? That is how I basically look at it. Just because I have one leg doesn’t make me any different.”
Is she able to paint her nails? The question got some chuckles.
“Yes I can paint my nails, but I haven’t done it yet because I haven’t figured out how to get the nail polish off,” to laughter from the children.
It was on the Alanton Elementary playground that Michaeyla’s inability to run first alarmed her parents, which led to the discovery of bone cancer.
Her physical education teacher Betsy Almeda has embedded herself in Michaeyla’s life to this day.
“Twice every couple of weeks we go out to dinner, or get ice cream, watch sunrises or sunsets. We’ve done it all,” Almeda says with some emotion.
Michaeyla is fortunate to have Almeda in her life, and her other P.E. teacher, Wendy DeMartini.
“The way she has grown and accepted the things that have happened to her with grace and dignity and beauty.”
Michaeyla is also positive. Although faced with adversity, she is always positive.
“My goal is to keep walking, get walking, get walking, and now that I have this amputation I think I got a fair chance to be walking again, so yes it is possible, it is pretty exciting.”
Sunday at 1 p.m. is a big day — stationary bikes are ready to go at Crush Cancer at OneLife Fitness on Virginia Beach Blvd.
Sign up a team. Contribute to Team Michaeyla, who has $2,470 or to Team Andy, who has $170.
All the total money raised, which will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, will go toward cancer research.
See you Sunday at OneLife Fitness.