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If there is one thing Claudia Martino is not interested in, it’s pity. She fought cancer at the age of four, and then again at the age of 11. She acknowledges there were rough patches, but her path has been one of strength and resilience.
This resilience was unnecessarily called to the test when the challenges of fighting cancer were made worse by bullying. “When I was four, one of the girls in my class began to call me a boy because of my very short hair,” she recalls. “I didn’t really know what to do about it at the time, so I didn’t tell my teacher.”
Finally, Claudia told her mother, who got in touch with the principal so things could be reconciled. But mother and daughter didn’t stop there–they turned a negative into a positive, coming to class to educate the other students about what cancer is and how it affects people.
Cut to Claudia’s second bout of cancer, and again, the courageous girl faced the same bully. This time, the student actually told the other students that Claudia’s cancer was contagious. Fortunately, Claudia knew to talk to her teacher and principal about it. “I was surprised, but it’s just someone else’s ignorance,” she says.
Now Claudia has again been moved to action, deciding that the best way to fight cancer, and the lack of awareness that surrounds it, is through sharing knowledge and education. She’s written her first book, My Magic Box, about the trials and tribulations of battling cancer twice at such a young age, and also about the lessons she’s learned and the friends she’s made along the way. Proceeds from the book will go to her tribute fund to benefit The Children’s.
Claudia says having cancer at such a young age meant she had to grow up very fast. “I was also aware of the fact that I wasn’t alone. This was happening to other kids in the hospital. One boy lost his leg. Another had a tumour in her brain and had to get needles in her head.”
She says she never forgot the kindness of the doctors and nurses at the Hospital, nor the ordeals the other patients were facing. “I wish there was one pill we could all take so no one would ever get cancer again. But right now I know that pill doesn’t exist.”
In the meantime, “I wanted to write this book, so I could let everyone know what this has been like, and to give hope to other kids facing similar problems. It’s really important that they know they’re not alone.”
For all the young patients fighting cancer, Claudia has one prevailing piece of advice: “Be strong! Never give up and never let anyone put you down!”