The first thing you notice about Marlee is her smile. It lights up the room and you immediately fall in love with her. The second thing you notice about her is the panda hat. Then you ask yourself, how can such a small person eat a Gotta Have It the size of her face? She’s not afraid of a challenge; whether it’s eating ice cream or battling cancer, she doesn’t back down. Marlee is a nine year old cancer survivor and her radiation treatment has caused her hair to fall out, explaining her panda hat. Marlee doesn’t define herself by her diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. She defines herself through her passion for soccer, her love of Dolphin Tale and her wish to improve the lives of children like her. To Marlee, it’s all about the people. It’s not about the cancer, it’s about how she can improve the lives of those with cancer. Marlee is a selfless little girl and this week she’s going to be using us to better others. It’s easy to talk about a girl who has such an infectious energy, two minutes with Marlee will impact your life more than anyone you’ve ever met… and we get to help make her wish come true. Imagine what she can do in our lives in only one week.
Why did she pick the Wish she did?
Marlee has met Taylor Swift and she’s gone to meet Winter, the dolphin in a Dolphin Tale. “If I have to think this hard about what I want, I must not need anything,” she told her parents. That’s when she decided she wished to give bears to the children at Children’s Hospital. An eight year old girl battling cancer was content with life she is giving her wish away. We can all learn something from the compassion she shows.
What was her diagnosis and how did they discover she had cancer?
Marlee was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in April 2015. She noticed a lump on her foot in January last year, but brushed it off as a soccer injury. As time went on her mom noticed that the bump was not going away. They went to a doctor who also brushed it off, calling it a hemoglobin. “No, I want to see a specialist. This isn’t a hemoglobin,” Shelly, Marlee’s mom, remembers saying to the doctor. The specialist then diagnosed her with cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that attacks the connective tissue. For two weeks Marlee went through extensive tests and then her leg was amputated below the knee, three weeks later she began chemotherapy. She has gone through 32 rounds of chemo, but I’m happy to say Tuesday, February 9 was her last treatment .
What’s Marlee’s favorite movie?
Due to a Wish Enhancement, Marlee was able to meet Winter and Hope from Dolphin Tale. Winter also has a prosthesis creating an instant connection for the two, making Dolphin Tale her favorite. She also loves Inside Out.
What was Marlee’s reaction to her diagnosis?
Shelly says her favorite thing to share with people is her devastation following her diagnosis. Marlee loves soccer and the thought of not being able to play crushed her. Then she found Amy Purdy, a professional snowboarder with two prosthetic legs. Purdy gave Marlee the hope she needed to get through the amputation. She realized that if someone who lost two legs could continue doing what she loves, then she could do what she loves with one prosthetic leg. That’s when she decided to work hard at her recovery. Within weeks she was in her backyard kicking the ball. She has more work to do, but she’s ready for the challenge.
Marlee is far from average.
Marlee celebrated her ninth birthday a few months ago. Because of her hair loss, she wore a hat with fake hair at her party. You could hardly notice a difference though because her spirit is what defines her, not her appearance. She reads, she draws and she plays games just as a normal nine year old girl does. But she is far from average, she is one of the most amazing people I’ve met, and she hasn’t even reached double digits yet.
What is a Wish to give?
Children given a Wish most commonly wish to go, but a wish to give is the rarest of all. “I Wish to Give is when a child offers the benefit of their wish to someone else or to another organization. It’s incredibly impactful because the reach of their wish is multiplied! In the case of Marlee and Mountain Vista, we have no idea how many cancer patient’s lives will be impacted,” Stacie Winslow, Make-A-Wish employee, said. Marlee’s wish will reach deep into the lives of so many children and their families. Mountain Vista has the chance to not only change the life of one little girl, but the lives of so many more children. I Wish to Give has so much power.
How does Marlee describe herself?
When asked to pick three words to describe herself, she fell silent. It’s a big question for someone who has been through what she has, but she finally decided on determined, brave and caring. After talking with her for a few hours I realized those couldn’t be more accurate. She has fought cancer, she’s never backed down and she cares deeply for others.
What’s Marlee’s favorite color?
Marlee loves the color green. As is true for any nine year old, her face lit up at such a simple question. Though green was an automatic answer, she later added that she also loves blue.