While attending a parish festival in May 2013, 12-year-old Michela suffered a seizure. She was rushed to the emergency room. After several tests, doctors discovered a 3-centimeter tumor in her frontal lobe.
The first step in Michela’s treatment was to remove the astroblastoma grade III tumor surgically and then begin radiation. Michela’s oncologist thought proton therapy treatment would be the best way to treat the tumor since it uses a beam of protons to precisely target it. Proton therapy would destroy her cancer cells while sparing the healthy tissue surrounding her brain, which was crucial for cognitive development at her age.
After surgery, Michela was referred to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in her hometown of Houston. There she completed the 33 treatments she needed without having to travel. During her time at the center, she made lifelong friendships and built up her support system, which included her Girl Scout troop. While waiting for her treatment sessions, Michela put her sewing skills to work by making fleece hats for other children fighting cancer.
“No matter how hard it seems in the moment, it is possible,” says Michela. “It may seem scary at first, but if you are going through this, you are brave.”
Today, 15-year-old Michela is busy riding her scooter, sewing dresses for students in South America and baking chocolate chess pies. She’s currently a sophomore at Incarnate Word Academy, where she holds an impressive 4.6 GPA. Michela plans to attend Rice University and become a computational engineer.