Mommy, I’m walking!

“Mommy, I’m walking!” Those were the excited and proud words spoken by Colette when she took her first steps with a walker last summer.

Three years earlier, Colette was a cheerful, smiling 8 ½-month-old baby who was able to stand up holding onto a table with one hand and progressing in her development as any parent would hope and expect.

Then over a period of a couple of weeks, Colette’s parents, Heather and Ryan, noticed her reverting to holding the table with two hands and losing her strength to stand. Colette was fussy, seemed uncomfortable, and started tipping over while sitting.

After a trip to the emergency room and an MRI, a neuroblastoma (a malignant tumor) was found to be compressing Colette’s spinal cord and was almost completely surrounding the main vein and artery of her body. Two weeks after emergency surgery to remove the mass from her spinal column, it was time to deal with the remaining cancer. Colette underwent six rounds of chemotherapy which entailed numerous nights in the hospital, blood transfusions, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds to monitor the tumor. Eventually, Colette overcame the neuroblastoma.
Since chemotherapy, her cancer cells have stopped growing and her last MRI was clear. She is a cancer survivor.

After her initial surgery recovery, Colette slowly began to relearn all the movements she was able to perform before the tumor damaged her spinal cord, such as rolling over, sitting up, getting up onto her hands and knees. Heather was thrilled when she had to put a gate up at the top of the stairs!

Today, Colette is 4 years old, in preschool, and becoming more independent. She continues to be challenged on the hors

e and her core muscles continue to grow stronger. Colette has even taught herself how to pop wheelies to go over curbs in her wheelchair.

Colette looks forward to riding at the Center and seeing her friend and sidewalker, Kathy Augarten. She loves her horse, “Mini,” and enjoys touring the barn and feeding the other horses. At home Colette has toy horses with a toy stable, and she proudly displays her Shea Center Rider Recognition Week medals and trophies in her room.

Heather remarks, “The Shea Center is a light in our week; we are glad to have found a therapy Colette loves. She is always happy and eager to go riding, and her therapist makes the exercises fun.”

Heather continues, “Being at The Shea Center is good for Colette because she is working at being both a kid and a student. It is good for her physically and socially, and it’s exposing her to something special and out of the ordinary. We will continue at The Shea Center as long as Colette wants to participate.”