Ava Maling is a sweet, vivacious, creative nine-year-old girl with big brown eyes and a smile that would chase away the grayest northwest day. She loves horses, reading, art, and playing with her friends and pets. She was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at age six.
KO: When did you first start to notice that something was wrong?
Ava: One day my leg started hurting, kind of like a sprain, then it started to feel like a shot of pain going through my leg. Riding on my pony Half Pint hurt my leg, especially to trot, and when I got up the next morning, I had to crawl out of bed because it hurt so much to put weight on it. My mom took me to the doctor that day and they said I had a bone infection or a tumor. Then we went to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and they said I had Ewing’s and I had my port put in, but then we went to Seattle Children’s hospital, because it is the greatest hospital ever! (Her eyes lighting up with delight.)
KO: What grade were you in when you were diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma?
Ava: I was about to start kindergarten in a few days. I had all my school supplies ready. We visited the playground too.
KO: What were some of the hardest things about having cancer?
Ava sadly recalls: I missed all of Kindergarten except the last few weeks because of treatment. My mom and I had to stay in a condo near the hospital, and we couldn’t go home very much for. I had to lie in bed all the time because the chemo made me sleepy and sick. After they took my tumor out I had to be in a wheelchair for probably three months and wear a big brace all the time.
Anita: Halfway through her chemo-therapy treatments Ava had surgery that removed 1/3 of her thigh bone and replaced it with a bone graft made out of her own fibula. A titanium rod and screws were also put in to provide support during healing.
Ava: Then I had a walker, because I couldn’t walk on my own yet. I still have it. They put a metal bar thingy-majig with my bone graft. I hated not being able to walk! I used to like to run, and when I was little I pretended I was a horse a lot.
KO: Who were some of the people you met? Was there something you thought about and or a person/people that helped you get through the difficult times?
Ava with a big wide grin: I love Tigest! and Jake-the-snake was nice, and Sue, and Chappie, and Heidi. They are all nice, nice, nice. I accidentally threw up on Chappie once (devilish smile). I read a lot. We borrowed Magic Tree House books from the hospital school, and puzzles, and it was nice when I got to go out in the sunshine, like when we went on the Burke-Gilman trail in my wheelchair. I was inside a lot and I didn’t like it. All my family helped me: my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Some of my friends got to come visit me a little bit. I couldn’t be with kids because I could get sick. Except for Coleson! (bright smile) My UNO spin buddy. He was in there too. He had Ewing’s.
KO: So after you got done with treatment and went home to Kingston your school helped to put together a fundraiser for Seattle Dragonslayer. Please tell us more about that.
Ava: Last year my whole class trained for D.S. (Dragonslayer). Our teacher, Mrs. Lyons, helped us. We measured around the school so we would know how far to go. We all walked and ran almost every day. And we had a coin drive. We made posters and took them into the other classes to get them to bring in money. That was the embarrassing part. Then kids would go back and collect the money and we counted it. We were also learning how to count coins. We made over $500! Lots of kids from my class came and walked at Dragonslayer. We all wore headbands we decorated that said “Team Ava” on them. We made signs, too. One said, Help Dr. Chappie! I think D.S. is fun because it was good to see how many kids supported sarcoma people.
KO: You are going to be doing it again this year. Are you excited? Tell us your plans.
Ava: This year Team Ava will be my 2nd and 3rd grade class. Actually, I’m in a multi-age program called Options so there will be kindergarten to 3rd graders coming. Mrs. Lyons and Mrs. Maule are going to have us start training soon. We are deciding how to raise money. We will have an even bigger Team Ava this year!!
Thank you Ava, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to interview such an inspiring and brave young lady. Good luck and we will see you and Team Ava at Seattle Dragonslayer on April 6th at Green Lake Park.
To register or support Team Ava visit www.nwsarcoma.org.