Cancer patient gets special treatment from Kenmore 4th graders


by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @MegCoyleKING

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 8:51 PM

For the last seven months, Debbie Mickelson has been going through the motions and the emotions of pancreatic cancer.

“A lot of really down, dark, difficult days,” she said.

Today she undergoes another CT scan to determine the next step in her treatment. Through it all, Debbie manages to keep a smile on her face, after a little bird told her she wasn’t alone.

“I was thinking about these kids because I have my purple crane. They’re with me all the time,” says Mickelson.

“They” are the 4th grade class at Kenmore Elementary School and the Purple Crane Project, an organization that matches the violet colored wings of hope with those facing the fight of their lives, including Debbie Mickelson.

“I just asked if they wanted to be penpals, I didn’t expect what’s developed the last few months,” said Mickelson. It is a friendship and a connection that on this day becomes even more personal.

Debbie and her husband showed up school, to a hero’s welcome. Their teacher, Sarah Sweeney, does the formal introduction: “These are the 21 kiddos you’ve been writing back and forth to.”

Mickelson is overwhelmed. “I’ve been waiting to meet all of you too,” she tells the class. “You’re special, really special.”

Because along with grueling chemotherapy, this is her cancer treatment too.

“A huge therapy for me,” Mickelson says.

Side effects include gratitude, hope, and love.

“They even gave me a class picture. I carry this around with me quite a bit. And I say here’s my kids! That’s what I call them, they’re my kids.”

It’s why show and share holds new meaning in Mrs. Sweeney’s class: “I just feel like a hero right now,” says 4th grader David Sumner.

“I hope I’ve kinda added something to their lives too,” says Mickelson.

A life lesson learned through love and the power of words.

The 4th graders plan to continue being Debbie’s penpals, as they now prepare to enter the 5th grade.

Debbie is tentatively scheduled for surgery on July 7.

For more information about the Purple Crane Project:

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network