Colette was what she calls “a regular 13-year old girl, or close to it,” when she was told about the mass in her abdomen. She was a cross-country runner, loved science and preparing for the North American Irish dance Championships. She was playing a game of belly ball when she felt a pain in her stomach. After a visit to the doctor and some scans, they found the tumour. She went on to compete at her championships, but it would be the last time.
Her family was reeling from the news and Colette didn’t know what to think. Everyone had been holding on to the hope that the mango-sized tumour was going to be benign. That wasn’t the case. On July 24, 2014 Colette was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma.
During surgery it was discovered that the tumour was wrapped around the femoral nerve, making it necessary to remove it along with the tumour. This left a 12-cm gap in Colette’s nervous system’s electrical circuit.
After surgery Colette could not feel most of her leg and was no longer able to use her knee properly for walking, running or jumping. Irish dance, which was a passion since grade one, was no longer possible for Colette.
On September 2nd that year, just a day after starting grade nine, Colette started her first Chemo treatment. Colette was rarely well enough to attend school and felt isolated from her friends.
After multiple surgeries, chemo and 28 days of radiation, Colette finished treatment in January 2015.
Colette says, “Life looks a bit different now - 2 years seems like a lifetime ago. Dance was everything to me and I can’t imagine anything truly replacing it. I started helping with the beginners at our dance club; it makes me happy to still hold onto a piece of that part of my life. I have found new interests (proving there is life outside Irish dance!) I joined para Nordic and the rowing club both as a junior and in the para program. I am constantly inspired by my fellow athletes. I have also been able to further pursue science at a whole new level.”
While she was on treatment, Colette had the opportunity to meet Dr. Aru Narendran and he became her mentor for her science fair research projects. Read more about Colette’s research here.
Kids Cancer Care was with Colette every step of the way. Colette was able to participate in our PEER and Teen Leadership programs, as well as attend camp at Camp Kindle. Colette says, “At camp there is an unspoken understanding that brings everyone together. I could just be me – not the girl with cancer who everyone looked at differently, because at camp, I wasn’t different.”
Watch for Colette at Kids Cancer Care’s events in 2016 and 2017 to hear more about her story.