Meet Milan, our 2018/19 Champion Child,
part of Children's Miracle Network Champions, presented by Walmart Canada!
Milan was looking forward to starting Grade 9 in the fall of 2015 when cancer threw her typical teenage life off track.
Her right hip and leg became swollen, and the initial thought was it was compensating for a recently broken left ankle. However, when the swelling continued, doctors examined it with an ultrasound and discovered a grapefruit-sized mass in her right leg near her hip. A biopsy confirmed it was cancer – an Alveolar Soft-Part Sarcoma. As if this was not already shocking and devastating enough, Milan’s family soon learned the cancer had spread to her lungs and her brain.
While this serious diagnosis would set her down a path of countless scans, complex surgeries and long recoveries, it has been one that this inspirational young woman has taken all in stride.
“It sounds cliché but there really is no way to prepare for the shock of being told you have cancer,” says Milan, 16. “Somehow, that initial shock subsided and I realized I was going have to accept this as my new reality, and the reality was I was going to have a lot of work ahead of me to survive this. The good news was that I didn’t have to do it alone.”
With her loving family behind her and the support of her oncology team who came up with a plan, Milan faced the long road ahead of her with a positive attitude – even when her morning routine became radiation treatments before heading off to school.
After six weeks of radiation to shrink the tumour, Milan then underwent a two-part surgery to remove the tumour and reconstruct her leg using muscle, tissues and blood vessels from her other leg.
She then went through radiosurgery at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre to target the cancerous lesion in her brain, and then another surgery at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to further repair her leg and remove 13 lesions from her lungs.
Because of the drastic surgery required to save her life and her leg, Milan had to immerse herself in months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy to essentially learn to walk again.
Thanks to her sense of humour, positive outlook and the support of her family and team of specialists, Milan has been able to face each step of her journey with courage and grace. For this, she has been chosen as the 2018 Champion Child, part of Champions presented by Walmart Canada.
And unfortunately, her journey is not over. Recently, she was faced with another bump in her road. Milan had been experiencing back pain. Her doctors ordered and MRI, which showed a tumour growing next to her spine – another hurdle, another surgery. Milan underwent a three-and-a-half hour surgery in early March , and in true Milan-fashion, was up and walking around the next day and is recovering well.
Despite this recent setback, Milan is still holding her head up high.
“I am fortunate because I know that no matter what I go through, I have an incredible medical team by my side and of course, the love and support of my amazing family,” she says.
Dr. Paul Beaudry, Pediatric General Surgeon at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, calls Milan a role model, and an inspiration.
“Milan’s an exceptional person. She has a light that shines out of her that is really outstanding,” he says. “She is a role model not only for other kids but for many of us as adults in how she has faced something that can be overwhelming and managed to thrive in her life despite it. I think many adults wouldn’t be able to do what she’s done.”
While she doesn’t let cancer define her, Milan says her journey with the hospital and everything she has gone through has become part of her identity.
“I am stronger because of it and I hope maybe even more compassionate. It has made me the person I am today,” she says. “I know that my journey is not yet finished, and that it may never be; but another thing I know, is that I will always have the support of some of the best people I’ve ever met. And that alone is enough to keep a smile on my face.”
As the 2018/19 Champion Child, Milan is an ambassador for the 97,000 kids and families helped by the hospital each year.
Champions is a Children's Miracle Network program presented by Walmart that honours remarkable children who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges. For their courage and perseverance, these children have been selected as international ambassadors for the 17 million kids treated each year at children's hospitals supported by Children’s Miracle Network.