I-Team Report: Inspired to survive - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report: Inspired to survive

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When you see 14-year-old Sevanah Marecle throw a ball during her workout you would never know she wasn’t expected to be alive in 2017.

Nine years ago, when Sevanah turned 5, her life took a dramatic turn during a trip to the emergency room.

“She was having high fevers we couldn’t get down. It was highly unusual for her. She was having pain as well, waking up with stabbing pains in her abdomen,” Sevanah’s mother Wendy said.

She recalls the day when she got the news.

“They came to me at 5 a.m. to say she had a tumor. It was definitely an emotional day. It’s an emotional day to go back to," Wendy said.

Sevanah was diagnosed with a rare childhood kidney cancer called Wilms’ tumor. It was already stage four, which meant the cancer had spread to other organs. Her prognosis wasn’t good.

So instead of going to the playground and having fun like most kindergartners, Sevanah spent months in the hospital undergoing grueling chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

She lost her hair and at one point she just stopped talking.

“She told me, 'I didn’t talk because I thought I was going to die in surgery.' It crushes you,” Wendy said.

But Sevanah is very much alive. She has been cancer-free since 2010.

However, because of the harsh treatment, her battle with the side-effects of the disease and chemo still linger today. She suffers from pain, some memory loss, and attention deficit problems.

In a two-month span, Sevanah has had 37 appointments. She even travels to the University of Michigan Pediatric Rehab Center-Ann Arbor on Thursdays for pain management.

But she doesn’t let all the appointments get her down.

“You just have to push through it,” Sevanah said.

She credits her family and friends for helping to push her through, along with support groups for cancer survivors.

One support group, the Kidney Cancer Support Group of Mid-Michigan, meets at the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. It’s a place for people to come together for support and express compassion for one another.

What’s so unique about the group is participants are learning how to take control of their survival, be proactive and empower themselves through “patient power”.

It’s a concept Mark Roby lives by. He’s a Naturopathic Clinician and a cancer survivor.

“It’s hard work, but really study and understand what’s going on with your tumor. Not someone else’s tumor, but yours,” Roby said.

Naturopathic medicine combines traditional healing methods with a holistic and proactive approach to medicine.

In his book, Lifelines to Cancer Survival: A New Approach to Personalized Care, Roby lays it all out and explains some of the key elements of “patient power."

  • First, focus on your survival.
  • Research and learn about your illness.
  • Imagery - stay positive and imagine being cancer-free.
  • Build your inner circle - that includes getting multiple opinions and support from loved ones.
  • Nutrition - focus on cancer-fighting foods, less sugar, and more plants.
  • Ask for financial support, talk to your physician and medical team. Some treatments may have alternatives which are just as effective but less expensive, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“I want to push advocacy for yourself. It’s hard work. It’s like a job. You have to work really hard to survive and people need to know that,” Roby said.

Working hard is exactly what Kandie Sherman did in helping her 9-year-old granddaughter Maggie battle kidney cancer.

“I’ve learned how to help her fight it by what she puts in her diet. The food she eats, being active, just whatever I can do to help her fight it, that’s my goal,” Sherman said.

After chemo, and a lot of support, Maggie is cancer-free.

She has some advice to other kids who might find out they have cancer.

“I would tell them not to be worried because everything is going to be OK. I went through it and try not to worry as much and I got through it,” Maggie said.

A common thread that’s woven within all these survivors is a message of hope.

“That you’re gonna get through it and live on. Cause I did the same thing,” Sevanah said.

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