12-year-old cancer survivor's memoir


First aired on Montreal Daybreak (30/05/13)

When Claudia Martino was four years old, she went to a doctor after feeling some really bad pain under her left arm. The pain wasn't from falling off a swing set or any other accidents most kids her age experience -- she had a tumour that stretched from her throat all the way to her stomach.

Eight years later, after bouts of chemotherapy, steroid treatments and an eventual bone marrow transplant, Claudia has turned a corner in her lifelong battle with cancer. She stills goes in for check-ups once or twice a week, especially to see if any complications from the marrow transplant have arisen, but she's much healthier now than compared to even six months ago, her mother says.

In her young life, Claudia has already endured more pain than some encounter in the whole of their lives, and she's opened up about her story in a new memoir titled My Magic Box. The book title refers to the first portacath she received, a device that installs beneath the skin to deliver her chemotherapy drugs into her veins. Being four  at the time, she had no idea what it was.

"This nurse said to me, 't's your magic box,' and ever since then I've been calling it my magic box," Claudia told Montreal Daybreak during a recent interview.

magic-box-120.jpgIt was during her stays at the Montreal Children's Hospital that she came in contact with the Kids Write Club, a literacy program. The organizers encouraged Claudia to tell her story and helped her ghostwrite and publish it.

Claudia said the whole process was emotional and challenging, but the hardest part was opening up about the bullying she experienced after getting treatment.

"There was this girl at school, and when I was cancer-free she just started telling rumours about me, and saying, 'Oh, don't go near her, she has cancer, you could catch it.' It was horrible. People wouldn't come near me."

She said she hopes her book inspires young cancer patients to stay resilient and to ignore bullies. "I hope they learn to stay strong and to never give up and that they're not alone. Just because we have no hair and no eyelashes or eyebrows doesn't mean we're any different from anyone else." 

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