This is my niece, Misha Ritoch. She is a 21 year old young woman who has been battling stage IV Rhabdomyosarcoma for over a year. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that develops in tissues that support and connect the body. Misha’s doctors have given her less than a 20% chance to survive the cancer. Misha is a student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. In March 2013, while sitting on her bed one night with her friends, Misha felt a lump the size of a dime in her throat. A month later that lump in her neck grew to the size of her fist. She went to an ear, nose, and throat doctor and several weeks later she discovered that lump was a very aggressive form of cancer. Three weeks before the end of her sophomore year, Misha flew back home to California to have more tests done. It was then that her doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized. Misha had tumors bigger than the size of her fist throughout her body.
Even though the odds are against Misha, she does not believe in them. Despite being treated by some of the strongest chemotherapeutic drugs there is and given a lot of radiation, Misha is confident she will not only survive but thrive because of her cancer.
Though Misha is beyond strong, she has suffered much in the past year, including more than seven kinds of chemotherapy and was given radiation in many locations on her body. At one point the skin from Misha’s neck was black and peeling. Her neck was inflamed from second degree radiation burns. Already a petite girl, Misha went from 110 pounds to 84 pounds. She has had to endure dozens of blood transfusions and multiple blood infections that have put her in the hospital weeks at a time. Her white blood counts have dropped to practically zero many times putting her life at risk.
If you ask Misha if she has it rough, she would say no. If you ask her doctors if Misha’s treatment has been tough, they would tell you Misha has received more chemotherapy and radiation than anyone. Most people do not finish the entire course of chemotherapy and radiation that Misha is on. In fact most people afflicted with her type of cancer do not survive.
This is not Misha’s first fight with cancer. When Misha was four months old, she was diagnosed with a malignant brainstem glioma, one of the worse types of brain tumors to have. Misha was not supposed to survive the brain tumor. It was very fast growing. At one point the tumor had quintupled in size in less than a month. In her lifetime, Misha has had 19 surgeries, tons of chemotherapy, a bone marrow and stem cell transplant, and enough radiation to light up a house for year. Because of the brainstem glioma, Misha is deaf in her right ear, practically blind in her right eye, and the right side of her face is paralyzed. She has endured more than most people have in their lifetime.
Many of you know Misha. For those of you that do not know her, Misha is a young lady with an indomitable spirit. Despite the pain from the treatments and the cancer, she is always happy. She does not let the cancer destroy her spirit, and never allows it to stop her from doing what she wants. Misha has risen above the expectations of her teachers, doctors, and friends since she was a baby. Her whole life, Misha has been a giver, always putting others in front of herself. She has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, cleaning hundreds of bathrooms and cooking meals for the families staying there. She has worked countless hours serving women dinner at a homeless shelter, and this past year has served her church even with low blood counts and blood infections.
Part of what keeps Misha strong and able to push past the pain is her dream to go back to Smith College and graduate. Misha needs help with paying off her medical bills and raising the money to pay for her college tuition when she goes back to Smith College this coming January.
Misha and her family are burdened with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Her family has run out of money in their struggle to help her. In order to ensure that Misha is safe and comfortable throughout her treatments, Misha’s father stopped working to be with her throughout her treatments. To make matters worse, Misha’s mother’s employer has cut her pay over 30 percent. Misha and her family are the not kind of family that asks for help but they need it so I am asking for them.
The upcoming years will be especially hard for Misha and her family financially. In a family of four, they are living off of one income. Due to frequent emergency room visits, hospital stays, and radiological scans, the medical bills only continue to pile up on her kitchen counter. Misha has over $12,000 in medical bills (and growing). Yearly tuition as well as room and board at
Smith College is approximately $60,000. That does not include the books Misha will need while attending school.
Can you help send Misha back to college without having to deal with the stress of her medical bills or finding a way to pay her tuition? Misha is a truly remarkable young woman. She has gone through so much and has thrived. Please consider giving whatever you can, $5, $10, $20, or more so we can help Misha achieve her goal of going back to Smith College.
Thank you and God Bless!
(Misha at chemo!)
(Misha and her sister, Anna, have breakfast IHOP after a week of in-patient chemo.)
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