I've seen courage in a whole new light since I've known Camilla.
Camilla is a beautiful 11 year old girl. She and her family are close friends of ours. I first met her when I had her brother, John, in my class. Camilla, who is 3 1/2 years younger than John, would bounce into our class with her curly hair and inquisitive mind whenever her mom would be helping us with parties. That was how I first met Camilla.
Fast forward 3 years...now Camilla is in my class. She's so very bright, so very social, so full of promise, so very happy. The fevers start...the pains in her leg...the sluggishness. Her doctor can't find anything wrong...but her mom is worried. Camilla isn't the same, she never has fevers. They kept on running tests - and then they find abnormal cells. Camilla has leukemia. This was in January. I think the for-sure diagnosis was February, but we knew in January.
Courage - well, the day in January they found out she had leukemia, Camilla was highly concerned about the spelling test her class had taken to see who would be in the class spelling bee. She could barely sit up, so obviously hadn't been at school. She had no energy to even comb her own hair. What did she want? She wanted me to come over and give her the spelling test. I did..she aced it. She was one of our spelling bee partipants.
San Francisco - that's where she went for treatment. It was grueling...long trips when she wasn't feeling well...needles, needles, and more needles. Chemo, transfusions and tests...Camilla wanted to know everything going on. I have photographs of her pushing her own syringe into her lines. How did she do that? She became so weak from all the chemo, the chemo her body couldn't take. Again, courage....resolve...perseverance. She didn't want to miss school so even though she wasn't in the building, she participated. She was part of her 'California Missions' group. Cody, Dana, Ryan...we'd call her in her hospital room and her group would talk over questions with her. She aced all her school work even though she could barely stand up!
Treatment wasn't working...it was a horrible time and we didn't know if she was going to make it. Fortunately, circumstances led to Camilla being accepted into St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Off they went, Camilla and her mom moving to Memphis. John and his dad here at home.
It was so difficult to go, but there was no other choice. A bone marrow transplant was the goal. John was the perfect match...too perfect, come to find out. It was grueling treatment leading up to the transplant...chemo - heavy chemo, radiation...no energy, no appetitite - but we have to remember this is Camilla. Give up? No way. Courage? Definitely. She didn't want to have courage, didn't want to NEED to have courage...but it's in her...it's who she is.
The transplant came through remarkably well. After 100 days, Camilla came home to great fanfare at our airport. A huge crowd was there at 1 a.m. to greet her.
The end of August signals the beginning of a new school year. 6th grade for Camilla, middle school begins. She wasn't suppose to go since her blood counts were still recovering from the transplant. Her hair still hadn't grown back in. Remember this is Camilla. She went to school wearing her mask. Courage! She eased her way back in - staying a little longer as time went on. You would never have guessed that this 6th grader had basically missed most of her 5th grade year!
Life became pretty normal again. School assignments, school dances, hanging out with friends. But then her knee started hurting...her mom was suspicious, worried, scared. After a time, the worst was confirmed. The cancer was back. Tears? of course! Scared? of course! Courage? of course!
Now life is back in Memphis again...chemo, radiation...another bone marrow transplant. Camilla has been able to come home to visit twice since she's been back. The last visit, she wanted to go to school. She had just had heavy chemo...but she wanted to go to school. She put on one of her new adorable shirts, a little make up...and off she went. A hat to cover her beautiful head? No way... this is Camilla ... accept me like I am.
'Camilla' was a mythological warrior princess...the Queen of the Volscians...or so her dad told me. Warrior princess? Yep, that certainly fits the Camilla I know and love. She IS a warrior, she's fighting for her life. In the 3 years I've known her since she was in my classroom, she has taught me so much. She has shown me a whole new meaning of courage, of perseverance, of determination. She's opened her world up to me...the fears, the hopes, the dreams. She has become a special part of my life.