For the second time in her young life, Maya Rigler of Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County has developed cancer, only this time the diagnosis is a very rare form of the disease.
Ten-year-old Maya was recently told she has atypical Ewing's sarcoma, a tumor on her pancreas.
"I describe it as a bunch of sad cells coming together in a group, " Maya said. "They're just like Mr. Sad Cell and they form a weird blob and then you just take the blob out and you shrink it."
Doctors can't operate because the tumor is as big as an orange and sits on critical blood vessels, said Dr. Julie Stern of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"You can't take it out without damaging 12 other organs that are sitting around it," said Stern. The goal is to try first to shrink the mass with chemotherapy, and then remove it.
Maya is up for the fight — having already beat Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer at the age of two. She, and her parents who are rabbis at two area synagogues, have their unwavering faith behind them.
"I have no lack of faith," said Maya's father Peter Rigler. "Going into this process we need every bit of faith we have and we haven't questioned that at all. That's who we are and that's what's going to get us through this."
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"There is no road book for this," said Dr. Stern. "It just doesn't happen, so I think for Maya, it's Maya's story."
A story that Maya is making more robust by the minute. In the midst of her own fight, she is fighting for others, raising money for Alex's Lemonade stand to help find a cure for childhood cancers.
Already, Maya has raised almost $65,000 of her $100,000 goal. She's even asked friends and family to make a donation instead of buying her gifts. On her Virtual Lemonade Stand page, Maya writes, "Maybe one day we can make sure that no other kid needs to go through this stuff :)"
So while doctors focus on shrinking her tumor, Maya plans to focus on growing her donations.
"If everyone tells one friend and they donate the same amount of money, then we could get $100,000."