(WSVN) - Two South Florida girls were diagnosed with the same rare form of bone cancer. They didn’t know each other when they started treatment but became friends through the fight. 7’s Alex de Armas shares their story.
Maja Milovanovic, cancer survivor: “Dear Victoria. Hello, my name is Maja.”
It started with this simple letter of encouragement.
Maja Milovanovic: “I just had surgery on my femur and knee. It’s OK if you’re scared because I was, too.”
A friendship in the making between two girls, both in the fight of their lives.
Maja Milovanovic: “My leg did hurt a lot, but they have pain medications for that.”
Maja is 9 years old and from Jupiter. Victoria is 11 from Hialeah Gardens.
Dr. Maggie Fader, oncologist: “Two very different girls that came from two very different places that both have a very rare type of disease. Osteosarcoma in pediatrics is somewhere between 400 to 600 cases per year in this country. You know, this happening to two people in one day, in the same city, is like lightning striking twice.”
The fear struck last August. Both girls arriving at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital with what their moms thought was leg pain.
Mara Franco, Victoria’s mother: “People usually confuse this with growing pains, and it was something that happened to us.”
Maja Milovanovic: “We didn’t know it was cancer. We just thought it was growing pains, so it was really like shocking.”
Both Maja and Victoria have spent this entire school year in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy every week — then surgery.
Dr. Maggie Fader: “The treatment is difficult. It’s very difficult. They struggle.”
Dr. Temple is part of the Sarcoma and Solid Tumor Program at the hospital.
Dr. H. Thomas Temple, orthopedic surgeon: “We used to just amputate the limb of a child affected with these malignant bone tumors. But now, because they’re surviving, the pressure is on us to develop better strategies to spare limbs.”
Maja has a metal implant in her leg. Turning these screws inside of it will allow it to grow as she grows.
Victoria, in the meantime, has a bone transplant.
You can see where her bone and the new transplanted bone meet.
Dr. H. Thomas Temple: “Her bone will grow into this graft, and her cells will take over this graft and become viable and part of her for the rest of her life.”
And while their bodies heal, the two rely on each other to make sure their hearts stay strong.
Dr. H. Thomas Fader: “I think it gives them a lot of support to know they are not alone.”
And as they ring the bell to celebrate the end of their chemo, these two girls who came to the hospital as strangers now leave, cancer-free, as friends.
Crowd singing: “Happy last chemo, dear Maja.”
Maja Milovanovic: “I’m walking now, and I feel great. Your friend, Maja.”
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