Posted on November 10th, 2011 by Cory Shaffer
Andrew Miller’s lymphoma diagnosis last spring started when a classmate at school noticed something was different about him.
“One of my friends told me it looked like my eye was bulging out,” said Andrew, a freshman at Lakewood High School. “I looked like Igor.”
This year, Andrew, now cancer-free for more than a year, is helping raise money by participiating in Big Shots & Little Stars, an annual fashion show at Quicken Loans Arena featuring members of the Cleveland Browns and Lake Erie Monsters, Cleveland CEOs and other survivors of pediatric cancer this Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.
Jenn Yokley, corporate communications coordinator at Quicken Loans Arena, said more than 900 people attended the event last year, which raised $340,000.
She expects bigger and better things this year.
"The cancer survivors are obviously the 'Little Stars' and they are paired up with celebrities who are the 'Big Shots' who walk the runway together," Yokley said.
The event is sponsored by the Children’s Tumor Foundation and Flashes of Hope, a Cleveland-based, national nonprofit providing free photographs to children with cancer -- children like Andrew, who was 12 years old when he was diagnosed.
His mother, Maureen Miller, said Andrew had been experiencing unusual symptoms for a few months before the diagnosis.
“He had headaches, was sleeping more than usual, he was throwing up a lot,” she said. “He lost probably 15-20 pounds in the six months before he was diagnosed.
“There were a lot of signs that, until you look at them afterwards and see them all together, you’d never suspect it,” she said.
Andrew underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumor, and was told he would have to undergo three months of chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic.
He may have only been 12, but he met the diagnosis and the treatment with the pragmatism of an adult.
“They told me there was a low chance anything really bad would happen, so it was like, ok, I’ll just lay here in this bed for a little bit, then go back to a normal life,” he said.
Maureen was equally level-headed.
“I wouldn’t say it was difficult,” she said. “I was raised with the mindset that, if you can’t change it, you just have to deal with it and keep going.”
The Millers had a deep network of support to help them keep going. Maureen, her husband, her two sisters-in-law and her husband’s mother all took turns staying with Andrew during his chemotherapy sessions. Andrew’s friends, classmates, neighbors and his priest from St. Clement’s Catholic Church were also frequent visitors.
Andrew said he enjoyed the company, mostly for culinary reasons.
“Each time they came, they brought me a different special food,” he said. “Someone brought me a jar of baby pickles once, which I ate in about 20 minutes.”
Maureen said the fact Andrew could walk to Lakewood Hospital from their home to get his blood drawn and northeast Ohio’s robust medical industry was a huge factor in Andrew’s success story.
“We’re very fortunate to live where we live and have a sick kid,” she said. “We met people driving six or seven hours just to get to the (Clinic).”
Andrew said his life is basically back to normal, aside from the twice-yearly checkups and occasional events like Big Shots & Little Stars.
“I play the cello, and I’m involved in the school play,” he said. “I like to go to Malley’s after football games with my friends.”
Most striking is Andrew’s blunt sense of humor about the whole situation.
Maureen said she purchased a laptop computer so she could work from the hospital – she is a sales manager at a food distribution company – and it “got sick and died.”
“Well,” Andrew said. “Better it than me.”
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