Teen cancer survivor inspires others with story of recovery - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Teen cancer survivor inspires others with story of recovery


During the 2012 Children's Miracle Network Telethon, 18-year-old Dejanaira Simmons was just one of many miracles featured. 

She's a familiar face, and has been featured before – but this year is a special year for Dejanaira – a year where she proved to the world miracles really do happen.

High school has been anything but normal for Dejanaira.  The shy and soft spoken teen who goes by Nay was a star athlete at Amherst High School, but her days on the basketball court came to a sudden halt.

"When they first told me about it, I thought… I wished the Earth would just swallow me up," said Donna Simmons, Nay's mother.

In August of 2010 doctors found a softball-sized tumor in Nay's thigh bone. It was a rare cancer called Spindle Cell Sarcoma.

On December 7th 2010, the day before Nay's 17th birthday, doctors removed the tumor. She started off 17 cancer free, but the pain was far from over. Doctors had to replace her knee and a large part of her thigh bone with prosthetics. With more than a year of physical therapy Nay would have to learn how to walk again.

"Watching her have to go through it, it's just something any parent would rather it be them than their child," said Donna with tears streaming down her face. "You try to fix everything, but it was something I couldn't fix."

Pain overwhelmed Nay with each step, but the only sign of hurt were the silent tears that rolled down her face. Never complaining – her typical teenage years were over. Her chemotherapy left her so sick that she had to be home schooled her junior year, but for Nay this was only temporary, a minor setback in the amazing things to come. 

After a year and a half of home schooling, Nay's chemo was finally finished. Her UMC child life specialists presented her with a special gift.

"They gave me this crown when I finished my last round chemo," said Nay. She could now go back to school and finish out her senior year with her friends. With no surprise to everyone  else the crowns kept coming -  the second for prom queen and third as homecoming queen.

It wasn't what this teen said that got her the crowns. It was how she showed her school that nothing could get her down.  She was now more determined than ever to walk across the stage for graduation on her own.

Just weeks before the big graduation day Nay finally finished her physical therapy and the crutches went into the closet.

"I was happy," said Nay. "I'm going to donate them to physical therapy to help somebody else."

Finally on May 24th, 2012 Nay put on her blue cap and gown and left the crutches at home.  It was a day she proved to the world anything was possible, and that with hope and faith she decides how to live her life.

With something as simple as step after step, Nay moved the room as they watched in awe. Nay – a young woman standing proudly and defiantly – walked cancer free and on her own across the stage.

"As a parent you can't help but be proud. That was just something she never thought she was going to do, but she actually got to do it. It was just one of those ‘there's no stopping me now moments'," said Donna after graduation.

As Nay walked around the room handing out roses to those who had helped her along the way, tears once again fell from her face. These weren't from pain or hurting, they were tears of relief and joy… she had finally done it.

The only girl out of the six in the Amherst High School class of 2012, Nay graduated with honors. She now plans on pursuing a career in nursing to help others like her to show children she's living proof cancer doesn't have the fighting like dreams do.

It's a miracle made possible by Children's Miracle Network and their donors; a miracle that nay hopes will continue to inspire and bring life to others.

"They were always there for her, you know to always just push her a little bit further. Her doctors were just awesome, and without them you can truly say she wouldn't be where she is today.  You couldn't have had a better team," said Donna.

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