by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Sixty-two.
That’s how many students from Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka filled a local hospital’s waiting room this summer in support of one of their own, Mia Miyamoto.
On March 31, while practicing soccer, Mia tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of her left knee. After surgery in mid-April, she seemed to be on the road to recovery but, a few weeks later, she complained of side pain.
After Mia started experiencing shortness of breath, her mother Amy McGivern took her to the hospital to check for blood clots, a side effect sometimes experienced by people recovering from surgery. That was May 16, the day McGivern said their world changed forever.
CT scans revealed no blood clots. However, doctors found a mass in Mia’s chest. Fearing it was cancer, doctors ordered more tests. On May 19, just eight days after Mia’s 15th birthday, doctors confirmed the diagnosis. Mia has a rare form of cancer known as PNET or primitive neuroectodermal tumor. It usually occurs in children and adults younger than age 25.
Wasting no time, doctors began treatment just two days later with Mia’s first round of chemotherapy. And right away, the Hayden High School community of students, teachers, parents, and alumni began rallying around Mia and her family in countless ways.
A “jeans day” was arranged in short order, in which students paid to wear jeans to class instead of the regular school uniform, with the money collected going to Mia’s family. And when her teammates found themselves in the Class 4A state soccer championship game, they dedicated the game to her. (Hayden won 1-0 against McPherson.)
The cause spread from current students to the larger Hayden community, when alumni from several graduating classes held fundraisers as benefits, including a volleyball tournament through which more than $10,000 was raised to help with medical expenses. Another alumni fundraiser generated more than $7,000.
While Mia and her mother both appreciate the financial assistance, the two say it’s the endless ways people have given of their time and of themselves — from the prayers and the meals, to just sitting with them — that has meant the most.
McGivern said one day 62 students — including the entire girls soccer team — filled a hospital waiting room while Mia was undergoing treatment.
“It was pretty awesome,” said Mia.
Jolene Lawlor, lead of Hayden’s mathematics department and one of Mia’s favorite teachers, said the Hayden community is just doing what it always does — rallying around one of its family members.
“The longer I live here in Topeka, the more I realize that Hayden is so interconnected,” she said. “We just kind of look out for each other.”
Throughout the summer, Lawlor has visited Mia on a regular basis, spending time at her bedside praying rosary after rosary while Mia slept off the effects of another round of treatment.
“I ended up praying four rosaries [one] day,” she said.
Indeed, prayer has been an important part of the tremendous spiritual support Mia and her family have received, something that Father Jaime Zarse, school chaplain, said he’s felt privileged to be a part of.
“Hayden has long been described as a big family here in Topeka, and that has definitely been the case with Mia’s recent health problems.” he said. “I have witnessed the Hayden community rally together in exceptional ways through fundraisers and emotional support for Mia and her family during this dark time.”
It’s left him “proud to be a part of this Hayden family,” said Father Zarse.
Both Mia and her mother feel they’ve gained from their family’s ordeal — not only a deeper appreciation of life itself, but also of the family known as Hayden High School.
Lawlor said that time and time again, the Hayden community has reached out to support its family members, no matter the situation.
This summer a fundraiser was also held for Florence Tetuan, for example. She is the daughter of a Hayden graduate who was born with some complications and has spent the majority of her young life at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri.
Also, this summer, another Hayden student, Jeff King, and his sister Jayme suffered severe injuries as a result of a head-on collision. Members of the Hayden family have already taken up a collection to help defray some of their medical expenses. And, of course, countless members of the community have been praying for them, said Lawlor.
“It makes you realize why you go to Hayden,” said McGivern. “It shows you what you’re made of as a Hayden graduate.
“We celebrate joy as a family of God, and we endure the bad or tough times as a family through Christ.”