Cancer survivor, author, dancer, spokeswoman–all at an age when most girls are thinking about prom and American Idol. Melinda Marchiano shows us that heroes come in many forms and at any age.

Diaz: You are a survivor of childhood cancer. What was the greatest challenge you faced while fighting cancer?

Marchiano: The greatest challenge I faced while fighting cancer was being patient.  Being sick and feeling horrible day after day was exhausting both physically and emotionally.  I had to remain patient and remind myself that I would have to wait a long time before I felt anything like myself again.

Diaz: What gave you the passion to fight your disease?

Marchiano: Dance, family, and God all inspired to keep fighting.  I began lessons at age three, so dance has been a lifelong passion and has always been there to give my spirit a boost.  My family was so supportive of me during my illness, and I am so grateful to have so many who love me.  To give up during my fight against cancer would have meant letting them down; leaving my family would have made them suffer which I just couldn’t let happen.  I have had a very strong faith all of my life, but during my journey I became even closer to God.  He was with me at every step along the way and provided comfort to me when nothing or no one else could.

Diaz: Do you think your experience has given you a different perspective from other girls your age?

Marchiano: My experience has given me a completely, utterly, entirely, exponentially different perspective than other girls my age.  Not to generalize, but most girls my age are very absorbed in the tiny events and concerns of their “life bubble.”  After going through cancer, I see a wider view of the world and don’t share the same worries as others.  My eyes have really been opened up to exactly what matters in life, and many girls my age simply have not been introduced to this take on the world and existence.

Diaz: You’re the debut author of Grace: A Child’s Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery. What motivated you to write a book?

Marchiano: What motivated me to write a book was my intense desire to help others through my story.  I reached a point in my “cancer maturity” when it all stopped mattering about me and I realized that I could really give hope to other people by sharing my journey.

Diaz: You speak and advocate on behalf of several organizations including the Children’s Miracle Network. What is your motivation for doing this?

Marchiano: Being a speaker and an advocate for many different organizations is my way of expressing gratitude for my life, so appreciation is my motivation.  I discovered that my unique story can be a gift to many organizations and help them receive the financial support they need to do the wonderful things that they do!

Diaz: How can people help your cause?

Marchiano: People can help my cause in many ways!  They can purchase a book by going to www.happyquail.net and contacting us!  Happy Quail regularly makes donations from book proceeds to organizations such as the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network, and many more!

Diaz: How do you balance promoting your book, speaking on behalf of these organizations, participating in dance, and maintaining a full and successful academic schedule?

Marchiano: To maintain my busy schedule I prioritize, organize, make lists, avoid spreading myself too thin, stay on top of things, and take lots of nice, deep breaths!

Diaz: What would you tell someone else who is facing their own personal challenge?

Marchiano: To anyone facing their own personal challenge, I would tell them to always hold on to what makes you happy in life.  Rough times are exactly when you need that “something” that consistently boosts your spirit and is always there for you, even when you feel as though your life is completely out of control.  For me, that “something” was dance, for you, it could be anything…reading, playing piano, drawing, soccer…anything you love!

Diaz: What’s next for you?

Marchiano: Next is junior year of high school!  Also this fall, I will be busy promoting my book, which will be released October 1st nationwide!  As far as long-term, I plan on becoming a doctor and continuing to write and dance!

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