This rising seventh grader is a cancer survivor and is celebrating an amazing milestone.
Maryssa Dysart of Cliffside, who turns 12 years old on June 1, successfully completed a two-year regiment of chemotherapy treatments for her leukemia at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte on April 19.
To celebrate the last of her treatments, Maryssa, the daughter of Jeffrey and Tonya Dysart, feasted on her favorite food -- raw sushi and rare steak. Only after the doctors gave her the thumbs up was she allowed to enjoy these two favorite foods.
She was diagnosed one week after Thanksgiving 2017 with acute lymphoblastic a form of leukemia after doctors at Levine discovered cancer cells in her lymph nodes and bone marrow. She was sent to Charlotte following a two-week bout of strep throat and swollen glands that wouldn't go away.
A Cliffside Elementary School student at the time, she missed much of that year and for two years she was in and out of school based on her treatments and other issues.
Like all other classmates Maryssa is completing her sixth grade at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Celebrating the end of the treatments, Maryssa said, "It feels amazing. I feel like the entire treatment has gone so fast yet so slow at the same time."
During the two years of treatments, Maryassa had to be hospitalized numerous times for fever, infections, the flu and other complication of her treatments. She was a trooper.
Maryassa has set a few goals for her seventh grade year at Chase Middle School when the 2020-2021 school year begins. She plans to be more involved in 4-H and Beta Club.
"I also want to start my own foundation to help other kids with cancer and their families," she said.
For anyone facing what she has undergone, Maryassa said, "little milestones will help you. Things do get better and you will come out stronger in the end. Everything happens for a reason, you just might not know why right now."
Maryassa said her parents were always there for her and stood by her side throughout the two years.
"It is so hard to watch your child go through something like this but it truly shows you just how resilient kids are," Tonya said of her daughter. " She is truly my hero and I'm so excited for her future and for her to have the opportunity to go back to living like a regular kid now that her treatment is over."
Last year Maryssa was awarded an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World through the Make a Wish Foundation. The family spent a full week as guests at the Give the Kids the World village.
Of the trip Maryssa said, "There were volunteers everywhere and we didn't have to do anything." Special activities were planned daily for families and all meals were available at the village.
Maryssa was so impressed by the volunteers, she's already planning to return some day as a volunteer.
On the heels of her Disney trip in 2019 Maryssa was a participant in a SunningHillKids cooking contest in Charlotte. The cooking show's son had cancer and when he was in the hospital the mother saw firsthand the joy iPads brought to sick children.
The cooking contests raises money to buy the iPads for cancer patients.
Just weeks after the cooking contest, Maryssa was back in the hospital with the flu. Her parents also got the flu and they all stayed together in the hospital for a few days.
Also during the past year, she was tapped to join two other cooking related fundraising projects in Charlotte.
She created the Burger of the Month in May 2019 at Pinky's Westside Grill.
Fundraising drives have been held to help with her medical bills that have far exceeded $1 million.
An employee of the State of North Carolina at the Spindale Corrections Unit, Jeremy said some of his co-workers have generously contributed some of their vacation days to him so he could be with Maryssa in Charlotte.
Co-workers and friends have also helped with the expenses of traveling to treatments and living in the hospital for days at a time.
Tonya took a leave of absence from her job at Harris Home Care until her schedule permits her to return.
The family is glad to be back home without anymore treatments and now look forward to celebrate Mother's Day with Tonya.
Maryssa will have to go for monthly check ups with her oncologist for a year but chemo and treatment are all finished.