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When cancer forced her to take a break from her beloved Irish dancing, 14-year-old Colette decided to concentrate on her number two passion – science. Embracing her new medical setting and enlisting the help of a renowned cancer researcher, Colette proved that with a little creativity and determination, it’s possible to live above your diagnosis – and maybe even try for first prize at the science fair.

When Colette began complaining about stomach pain, her mom Janice took her to the doctor to be checked out.

  Listen to Colette
  Listen to Colette
tell her story

When the doctor pulled Janice outside the examination room to say that her daughter might have a mass in her abdomen, she immediately flashed back to her own cancer diagnosis three years earlier. 

After being referred to the Alberta Children’s Hospital oncology team for further investigation, it became clear that this mango-sized mass needed to be removed. The question was timing. Colette had been training all year to compete in The North American Irish Dance Championship in Montreal, which was extremely important to her. Her oncologist, Dr. Strother told her to go for it and that surgery could be arranged for after she returned.

As it turned out, that was the last time Colette danced. The mass had wrapped itself around a major nerve and when the tumour was removed, she lost feeling and movement in her left leg. If that wasn’t enough, the biopsy of the mass confirmed that she was facing a cancer diagnosis and would begin chemotherapy and radiation right away. Needless to say, the family was devastated. “It was very heartbreaking, knowing what she was going to be going through,” says Janice. Colette, always positive, became the “glue” that held the family together as they rallied behind her through her treatment. 

Colette has now had her last chemo infusion. With help from yoga and the physio team, she’s regaining movement in her leg and hopes to be dancing and competing again someday. “I’m working with physio here at the hospital and we’re hoping that now I’m off treatment that I’m going to be able to go in the pool because that will hopefully help it a lot,” she says. In the meantime, she set her sights on competing at the Calgary Science Fair with a project called “Investigating Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumour Exosomes” and raising thousands of dollars to support the Alberta Children’s Hospital. 

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