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Penfield Post
  • Family of young cancer survivor urges others to help 'year-round'

  • As someone who has made it through cancer treatment, Bridgette Merriman has a different perspective on things these days.



    In 2009, Merriman developed a cough, and doctors treated her for congestion. She began to feel worse, and noticed a golf-ball sized lump on her neck.

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  • As someone who has made it through cancer treatment, Bridgette Merriman has a different perspective on things these days.
    In 2009, Merriman developed a cough, and doctors treated her for congestion. She began to feel worse, and noticed a golf-ball sized lump on her neck.
    After detecting suspicious spots on her lungs via X-rays, her pediatrician sent her to the hospital for X-rays. The results were not good.
    “Her CAT scan looked like the finale of a fireworks display,” said father, Mike.
    The diagnosis was Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cancer had spread to her lungs, lower abdomen and chest.
    She went into surgery almost immediately and just four days later, Merriman started chemotherapy. While standing in the face of what seemed like a death sentence, the 11-year-old kept a positive outlook that encouraged others around her.
    “The doctor kept saying it was highly curable, so I wasn’t too worried,” said Merriman, now 13.
    Her mother Tracey says the entire experience was a whirlwind for the entire family.
    “I don’t even think we had a chance to say ‘How did we do this?’ because Bridgette just kept on going.”
    Within five months, Bridgette was cancer-free.
    It’s an amazing story of survival that has inspired complete strangers to help out. She recalls, for example, a woman who saw the hairless Bridgette selling bandannas at a garage sale and immediately wrote her a check for $100.
    The cost of medical treatments are indeed burdensome for most families, but Mike and Tracey Merriman did not want to accept these kinds of handouts because their insurance covered most of the cost.
    This didn’t stop their daughter from wanting to do her part in helping others.
    “I saw how much people cared,” said Bridgette. “Before you go through something like (cancer) you take your family and friends for granted. If people just thought like that, think of how much better the world would be.”
    An opportunity to help others then came along. During a check-up at Golisano Children’s Hospital, Bridgette met an Ethiopian doctor, Khalie Asrat, who was shadowing her specialist. He told her how many Ethiopian children die because their families can’t afford proper treatments.
    So, in March of 2009, the Merrimans set up a non-profit charity called Chemo for Kids to help support these children. It has already raised more than $5,000.
    Merriman has met many others like herself at Camp Good Days, where she has been going to summer camp for the last three years. The camp has been a support group of sorts.
    “It’s a place where you remember that you’re all there because of cancer, which is kind of a weird connection, but it’s become such a special connection,” said Tracey.
    Page 2 of 2 - In February, Bridgette will volunteer at Cycle For Hope — a fundraising event that sponsors both CGD and Golisano. It’s a chance for her to give back to the same people who helped her and her loved ones during and after her illness.
    While the push for giving to charity seems to center around the holidays, the event is one way to keep the spirit of giving alive.
    “Cancer isn’t seasonal,” said mother, Tracey. “Unfortunately, it’s a year-round event.”
    Her daughter agrees.
    “There’re always going to be people who need help,” she said. “You can’t ever stop helping.”

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