Mia’s Might – A Young Cancer Survivor’s Amazing Mission to Pay it Forward
Mia’s Might – A Young Cancer Survivor’s Amazing Mission to Pay it Forward. Mia Dede doesn’t look like a typical warrior. This beautiful young girl with a huge smile and endearing shyness does not look like she was ever anything but happy.
No one would ever guess that this 9-year-old girl once spent months in the hospital, in a fight for her life.
Mia with cancer at 2 years old
She was just two years old when her mother rushed her to the emergency room. It was Mother’s Day, and Cynthia Diaz should have been simply enjoying the day, but Mia “could barely stand still without falling” and Cynthia knew there was something seriously wrong with her daughter. Imagine the fear and devastation that followed when Mia was diagnosed with medullablastoma, a cancerous tumor in her brain.
It doesn’t sound so bad when Mia says it. Her face scrunched as she tries to remember the word, she turns around to ask her mother what it is again? “Oh, yeah, medulloblastoma… brain cancer” she shrugs as if she can’t be bothered wasting time remembering its name. After all, she already lost so much of her childhood fighting it.
Mia spent about seven months in the hospital.
She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant in addition to surgery. Although she has not had to stay in the hospital since then, her health required constant guarding, and she was not able to do things the other kids did.
“I was really sad,” she remembers, “because most of the times, like Halloween, I had to stay indoors. I would just look out the window and watch other kids.” She didn’t get to go outside to the park or to school. Instead, she was sequestered in the hospital or at home, where she could best fight off the disease that could have killed her. “I didn’t get to have much fun.”
Now this young cancer survivor is making sure other kids like her find some brightness in their darkest days.
She still returns to Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) in the Bronx for routine visits and often pops back in on the 9th floor, where she spent so much time as a patient. It’s with mixed emotions that she does so, as she is happy to see her friends on staff but she’s also hit with sadness when she sees other kids going through the same battle she has fought and won.
Recently, Mia needed to return to the hospital for an MRI. She was struck with that sadness at the sight of a baby in a crib, and it was then that she and her mother began to talk about what they could do, to help the hospital be less sad. Mia’s Pay it Forward Project is her way of finding something happy about being in the hospital.
“Mia has lots of ideas,” her mom laughs as Mia enthusiastically nods in agreement.
Since Easter is near, their first mission is to provide Easter baskets to all the kids in CHAM. At last count, there were about 35 children expected to be there over this Easter weekend. Mia’s Pay it Forward Project has already raised over $1800.00 toward this goal. Rather than sit back and consider this mission complete, Mia and Cynthia decided to think even bigger.
“Holidays can be tough, and this is a way Mia can help. It makes her feel good, too,” says Cynthia. There are lots of holidays and Mia has lots of ideas on how to make each one special for kids in the hospital, but she will need help, so she wants to make sure people understand the significance of any donation.
When asked how it makes her feel to see people responding with donations of money or services or even just an encouraging message, Mia’s small voice cracked just a teeny bit as she replied,” It makes me really happy that they actually care about what we’re doing for other little kids.” It doesn’t have to be a huge donation, she agrees. Even just a few dollars can help, “It could make a difference for a lot of them when someone does that,” Mia explains.
When people stop in to visit, or send a positive message, or donate to help others reach out to kids like her, she knows it will impact those kids like it did her. Any time people did something to brighten her day, she says she’d “think of what they’re doing for me and I’ll forget I’m sick and I’ll be happy.”
If she had a magic wand, Mia would wave it over every hospital and every child in it to, “Get them all out, make them healthy.” Since she is currently without such a wand, the best she can do is remind these kids that people care, and give them a little bit of strength for whatever battle that day may hold.
She’s no ordinary warrior, but she is a warrior nonetheless. Mia’s gratefulness for the things most of us take for granted is something we could all indulge a bit more in.
Her strength to fight and overcome this disease is a part blessing, and part determination, even at such a young age. It is this determination now that is reaching back into the world she escaped to help others find their way.
“Do everything you know that will help you and keep you healthy and keep you safe. Don’t do anything you know will hurt you. Be happy.” That is her advice to anyone faced with similar struggles.
To anyone considering helping her, Mia has this message, “Help me give the kids a very happy life and make them feel appreciated.”
Find out more about Mia’s program here.
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