Last October, then-11-year-old Rachel Stief of Weston was undergoing treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare malignant tumor inside her face.
She endured wearing a mesh mask over her face during daily radiation treatments and chemotherapy, which she finished in April.
“I just feel a lot stronger than I ever did, and a lot more braver than I have ever been,” she says now.
Rachel now just sees her doctors for monthly follow ups. Her nother Jodie Stief says it's been five months that Rachel's been cancer-free.
"Every month, she looks brighter. She's glowing. She's happy," Jodie said.
"Month after month, cancer-free," said Rachel. "It's just hard to look back, and it went by very fast which is a good thing.”
It has been an eventful year for the small survivor. In her room, Rachel displays mementos from a special prom for survivors that she attended in May. In August, she and her family went to Hawaii courtesy of the Make-Wish Foundation.
“The zip lining was the best part of the trip,” says Rachel. “That was amazing just jumping off and going 'voom.' That was so much fun. And spending time with my family, that was a lot of fun too.”
She's doing more than having fun. After being a patient at Holtz Children's Hospital, she started a foundation called Rachel's Wish “helping other kids that were at that hospital too, making their rooms and everything better and have them feel, not at home, but comfortable.”
Rachel and her dad are on the cover of this year's brochure for the 4th Annual 5k Run/Walk for a Sarcoma Cure. Sarcoma is a rare cancer in adults, but makes up 15 per cent of childhood cancers. It grows in connective tissue like muscle, bone and fat.
After being home schooled for 6th grade, she's back at Falcon Cove Middle, appreciating the routine.
“Get up the same time, go to school, come home hang out with friends. It's good. I like going back to school,” said Rachel, who turns 13 in January.
The Stief family will be at the Sarcoma Cure Run/Walk this Sunday at 7:30am at Central Park in Plantation. In the past three years, the event has raised $135,000 to fund research. To learn more, visit curesarcoma.org.