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Valley survivor continues fight for pediatric cancer funding

(Photo by Patty Waxman)

PHOENIX — Behind boxes of old stuffed animals, lamp shades and other lightly used household items left over from her garage sale the week before, Mia Waxman grabbed just one of her many cases of beads.

The 17-year-old has made more bracelets than she can count in the past year for people she’s never met — yet they have a bond most of us will never understand.

She started her own business called Miracles in Art.

“I took one-third of the proceeds and used it to buy materials to make things for kids at the cancer clinic,” she explained.

In the past year, Mia has spent countless hours sitting outside the cancer treatment clinic at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, allowing kids to pick any one of her handmade creations to take with them as they head into treatment.

“Even if I don’t know them personally, it just makes me feel so great that I’m helping somebody get through something,” she said with a smile.

And while this is something she does out of the goodness of her heart, it goes much deeper than that.

Mia knows what it’s like to walk through those doors.

On June 11, 2018, Mia was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia which required an even more aggressive form of treatment.

“The first treatment was 10 doses of chemo 10 days in a row of really heavy, heavy chemo,” Patty Waxman, Mia’s mom said.

Those treatments would knock out Mia’s immune system.

“Because it was so hard on the body we had to stay in the hospital for a month. We knew each time going in, ‘We’re going to be here for an entire month,’ if things go well.” Patty said, remembering the frustration those stays would bring.

Eventually, it felt like they were battling the treatment as much as the cancer.

“I did sort of forget about the leukemia and just prayed that her body, her kidney, her liver, her heart could handle the toxins going in,” Patty said.

While going through treatment, Mia learned of the massive disparity between pediatric and adult cancer research funding.

According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only 4% of cancer research funding is directed towards childhood cancer.

“In the past three years there have been 53 new approved treatments for adults and in the past 40 years there have only been 4 new approved treatments for children,” Mia said.

Mia is also one of the 95% of pediatric cancer survivors who will live with significant health-related issues by the time their 45 — often times, from their treatment.

“Even though it happens to us as kids, some of us, including myself… can’t have children because of this,” she said through tears. “It’s just kind of crushing our chance to have dreams that we want for the future.”

During her fight with cancer and even her remission, those around her have seen Mia’s fighting spirit.

“She has a lot of grace in the way she took this whole thing on and never yelled at me once, never took her frustrations out on any of the nurses, never on me. She went through it with such grace,” Patty beamed.

Even Mia’s oncologist saw it right away.

“She was stopping at nothing,” Dr. Dana Sazberg with Phoenix Children’s Hospital said. “She was determined that she wasn’t going to let the leukemia take over and that she was going to fight her hardest… She had an inner strength that I really admired.”

Now Mia is using her strength to fight for others.

“Right now I’m doing the Students of the Year Program, benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” she said. “It’s just to see who can bring in the most money [for pediatric cancer research funding] in those seven weeks.”

Over the past several weeks Mia has hosted fundraising events with local businesses, sold art, held garage sales and reached out to people across the country sharing her story and encouraging them to donate.

Which is bound to make any mother proud.

“When you see individuals come in and it’s not all about them and they get that at such an early age,” Patty said with pride. “It gives me hope for our planet.”

Through raising funds and awareness, Mia and Patty hope that this means no one will have to fight the same way they did.

“You’re fighting for the future of children,” said Patty. “This really isn’t about Mia, it’s bigger than Mia. Do it for our next generation, because it could be someone you know.”

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