At 11 years old, Mia was an active kid — a soccer superstar and cross-country runner. In the fall of 2017, she started to struggle with activities that had always come easy to her. She couldn’t kick a soccer ball. She became clumsy. She complained of back pain and tingles in her legs. Doctors chalked it up to simple adolescent growing pains.
A few months later, Mia woke up and couldn’t feel her legs. She tried to get out of bed and fell to the floor. Her mom, Brenda, took her to Children’s Minnesota, where doctors ordered a CT scan. What they found was much more serious than growing pains: a tumor was growing on her spine. Mia was diagnosed with metastatic Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer that typically strikes young people.
“Doctors were very honest with us about how serious Mia’s condition was,” remembers Brenda.
Shortly after her scan, Mia had surgery on her spine to remove the tumor and began treatment at Children’s. The family spent 10 months at Children’s while Mia endured 14 rounds of chemo. In addition to her doctors, she had the support of a large care team, from physical therapists who helped her walk again to massage therapists who eased her pain.
“The nurses and doctors in the PICU were so loving and gentle with Mia,” Brenda says. “One of the nurses even took the time to wash Mia’s long, thick and very curly hair that was matted from being in bed for so long.”
Mia credits the nurses at Children’s for keeping her in good spirits, always making her laugh and even helping with homework. Music therapists nurtured an already strong love of music, singing along with her and even teaching her to play the ukulele. And the therapy pets who visited her room were a bright spot on hard days.
“All these little things make a big difference in a person’s life,” Mia says. “In the worst of times, staying positive can make you feel better.”
Thanks to people who give generously to Children’s, we’re able to make these “little things” possible for the kids and families in our care. Donations fund everything from music therapy to sibling play areas to child life specialists — supportive, therapeutic services that insurance doesn’t cover.