Mia Bryant is doing well, at least as well as a 7 year old in her situation can be. She smiles often, bosses around her younger and older brothers (and her parents on occasion), and dances to the repurposed music found on a Kidz Bop album.
The Chandler girl is just about fine, even in the days when she stays at the hospital for chemotherapy sessions to eradicate whatever remnants remain of the tumor that could have ended it all.
The story her parents, Jimmy and Miriam, tell begins with the headache Mia came home with on May 14, 2014. A bit of children’s Tylenol appeared to resolve the situation, at least until the ensuing shopping trip when it came back. But it was just a headache — as Jimmy told her, “it’s no big problem, it’s no big deal.”
Then Mia said she couldn’t see, and a trip to urgent care evolved into a trip to the hospital and a three-hour CT scan to a helicopter ride to Phoenix Children’s Hospital to treat a massive tumor in her brain. The diagnosis was medulloblastoma, a rather fast-growing type of cancer that, in Mia’s case, caused bleeding in her brain.
“He (doctor) said it imploded on itself,” Jimmy said.
There’s a hint of luck in the situation that manifests today, but the weeks following the surgery made it difficult to see that. Jimmy and Miriam said their daughter spent two months unable to walk or speak (they created a Bryant family sign-language system to resolve the second problem), along with three weeks on a ventilator.
There’s a garden at Phoenix Children’s Hospital she visited with her parents, where they’d stroll through during her treatments and used as a method to keep her spirits up.
“I would tell her, ‘You’re going to be fine. I love you,’” Jimmy said.
It seemed to work; Mia reserved enough energy during her treatments to dance her way through. The term the family uses is “shake her butt,” and Mia would do so by scooting herself to the end of her bed after radiation treatments despite being unable to walk.
“She did it every day,” Miriam said.
Mia remembers all of it, remembers the garden trips and the dancing and every other part where she wasn’t knocked out. That’s where the luck comes in; the girl, who had a massive brain tumor removed and spent weeks unable to walk or talk, has retained her memory and her motor functions despite, as Jimmy said, having “a hole in her brain the size of my fist.”
There is a difference in her personality though, as Mia became extroverted over the last 10 months.
“Before all this happened she was so shy; she would dance, but not in front of anyone,” Miriam said. “Now she does it everywhere.”
“Shaking my booty” — again, a family and Mia term — resides right on top of a list of her favorite things to do. It’s joined by activities like painting, coloring, playing games like tag, and giggling, and she possesses the bossiness mentioned above and a willingness to jump right into things. Her folks call her a tomboy, but she has a strong girly streak reinforced by her Barbie dolls and fondness for the color pink.
Mia has a soft spot for attention as well — she likes being in the limelight — and has become a minor celebrity at her school. Students will wave and say “hello” to her between classes. Teachers will drop a greeting to the 7-year-old before saying something along the lines of, “She’s so cute.”
On the horizon for her is her sixth round of chemotherapy next week — finishing that round will give her three more to go, depending on her health — along with a trip to Grand Canyon University to kick off the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer event. The run, now in year five, serves as a fundraiser for children’s cancer, and has a goal of raising $150,000.
Beside the opportunity for Mia to tell people what to do and that turn in the spotlight, Jimmy expects the event to be beneficial for the organization and the family.
“It’s something that’s been very negative in our lives and we want to turn it into a positive,” he said.
Mia, again, is doing pretty well in spite of things. She hasn’t become sick from the chemotherapy yet — another lucky break for her — and the treatment serves as more of a preventative measure than anything; her father said the initial surgery removed the tumor before it spread too much further.
They still have a solid support system encompassing other parents at Phoenix Children’s and Galveston Elementary, Mia-positive T-shirts included. Most important of all is the sense of hope that guided them through the darkness.
“I guess having faith, that’s what really helped,” Miriam said. “We’re not done yet and I’m scared … but the way she’s recovering gives me hope.” More information about the run is available by visiting runtofightcancer.com.