Illinois Girl Takes Her First Try at School at Age 8 after Winning Battle Against Cancer, Leukemia

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At just 5 years old, Maranda Wilborn was diagnosed with a rare and often deadly form of cancer. She beat it, only to be diagnosed with leukemia weeks before completing her chemotherapy treatments.

Wilborn, who lives in Belleville, Ill., with her family, has beaten both diseases (thanks to a little help from her sister) and is now ready to tackle her next big challenge: school.

Maranda Wilborn
Maranda Wilborn’s teacher said she has “blossomed” since starting second grade earlier this year. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

“She’s a normal kid,” Liz Watts, Maranda’s second-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary told the Belleville News-Democrat on Monday. Except, she is “probably exceptional in her kindness. She’s very kind.”

Unlike most children, Wilborn’s early years were spent in and out of the hospital for chemo, blood draws and needles rather than at school or a friend’s house for sleepovers. The cancer survivor, now 8, missed kindergarten and first grade but was ready for a new start when she entered the second grade earlier this year.

The Wilborn family said their only focus now is the present and future, as it doesn’t help to dwell on the many sleepless nights at the hospital or the financial hardships that come with caring for a sick child. Myiesha and Randy Wilborn said they’re simply grateful.

“This is my responsibility,” Myiesha Wilborn recalled a mechanic telling her and her husband when their car needed new tires and other pricey repairs. “[He said] ‘you take care of her.”

“At the time, we fell into a deep financial problems,” Randy Wilborn added, saying how the prayers and support from strangers helped lift their spirits during tough times. He said the financial contributions “took a lot off us” and allowed the family to visit with Maranda during her longer hospital stays.

The Belleville girl was nearly done with her treatments when the leukemia struck in October 2017, according to the newspaper. After weeks of waiting, the family finally got some good news: Maranda’s younger sister, Myriah, was a viable bone marrow donor. William Ferguson, Maranda’s oncologist, explained that any single sibling has a one in four chance of matching.

The family also has an older son, Randy Jr.

“Those close relations tend to be the best outcomes,” he said.

Myeisha Wilborn said Myriah, who was barely 5 at the time, was excited to finally be with her big sister at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, although the girls had to be kept separated before the operation.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported: “Myriah got to order all the hospital foods that her sister had been eating, and they watched a lot of movies. Myiesha stayed with Myriah the night after the girl’s bone marrow was taken, and the little chatterbox was excited all night long. She kept wanting to order food and see her big sister. Finally, the girls could see one another again and Myriah climbed into the hospital bed with her sister.”

After the lifesaving donation, Myiesha Wilborn said she knew her daughter would be just fine. She’s had some balance issues as a result of all the trauma, but her father said it hasn’t stopped her from running around all day.

“She’s really blossoming,” her teacher Watts said, adding that Maranda is making new friends as well as improving academically.

With a head wrap covering her fragile little curls and a big smile on her face, the 8-year-old seems ready to take on the world.

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