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July 16, 2013

Young survivor to sing at Relay for Life ceremony

Makyla Chasteen appears to be a normal 7-year-old girl who enjoys painting, coloring, biking, and swimming. She also enjoys singing.

Makyla will be helping kick off the Relay For Life opening ceremony on August 2 by singing the National Anthem. But what most people don’t know is that Makyla is a cancer survivor.

Makyla was only a few months old when her aunt noticed one of her eyes was wriggling and suggested that her mother Paula have her eyes checked. Local optometrist Dr. Ted Bogart checked Makyla over a six to eight week period.

“In January 2007 her eye was bulging and Dr. Bogart saw something. He referred us to St. Louis Children’s Hospital,” said Paula.

Makyla was 8 months old when she was diagnosed with optic pathway glioma - a tumor in the brain that affects the optic nerve. Many times the tumor is linked to a genetic disorder. None of Makyla’s older brother and sisters have shown any symptoms of the disorder.

She had a biopsy to diagnose the properties of the tumor, which showed properties of begin both benign and malignant. She began three months of IV chemotherapy followed by oral chemotherapy for nine months. The chemotherapy treatment can affect hearing, but hasn’t harmed Makyla’s hearing ability.

Today Makyla is five years stable, meaning the tumor is still present but not growing. She is color blind and legally blind in her left eye. But that has not stopped her from being a normal child. She has traveled to St. Louis every year for checkups, but did not understand that she had cancer until about a year ago.

“She now knows she has cancer though she may not understand completely what that means,” Paula said.

“I’m going to try to start eating healthy now, so I can grow bigger and faster,” Makyla said. “I like fruit and all kinds of vegetables. I want others to eat better, too, to be healthy.”

Makyla has hopes of being able to work at Disney World for other children suffering from illnesses. She recently was given a trip Disney World from the Make-A-Wish program.

“She’s amazing. One day she’s going to do something good for something,” Paula said.

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