Local News

January 22, 2014

‘You got this’

Westwood students rally around friend with cancer

Nine-year-old Esme Miller tells her parents, “I’ve got this.”

When her parents would try to help her pull a shirt over her head, for example, because a tumor on her arm leaves her with limited mobility, she didn’t want the help. She replied, “I’ve got this.”

Through her battle with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, those three words have become her motto.

She wears a bracelet given to her by several of her classmates reminding her “You got this” that gives her encouragement and strength.

“I can do it myself,” said a quiet-spoken Esme, who says she hasn’t always been this independent.

Through the chemotherapy, which brings on fatigue, vomiting, nausea and days of lying in a bed at Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Esme smiles and reminds everyone she is fine. She doesn’t want to talk about the struggles. She nods her head when asked if she gets sick from the chemo. She shrugs when asked if she’s tired.

It helps, not only Esme, but her entire family, including twin sister Maslin, and close friends to know she has so many people supporting her. Her dad, Ty Miller, a professional photographer, runs a Facebook page and blog called Team Esme (facebook.com/GoTeamEsme and www.team-esme.com) where he updates Esme’s struggles with candor in writing and photography. The Facebook page has more than 6,700 likes, and updates get several hundred likes and comments.

The extreme support extends to the staff and students at Westwood Elementary School where on Wednesday more than 20 boys in three different fourth-grade classes shaved their heads to show their support for Esme, who has lost her hair during the chemo treatments.

“My dad told me that hair doesn’t really matter,” said Nathan Riggle, who’s in Amanda Swift’s class. “We’re trying to prove to Esme that hair doesn’t matter.”

Nathan said Esme is funny, and that he was sad for her when he found out she had cancer.

Blake Hammontree, also in Swift’s class, said he hoped that buzzing his hair off would make Esme happy.

“It was fun,” he said shortly after running his hands across the peach fuzz now on his head. “All my friends were doing it. We thought Esme would appreciate it. She’s nice and fun.”

Esme watched the boys, who sat in chairs lining the gym wall at Westwood. They had their hair buzzed free of charge by stylists from Tease Salon. Esme, Maslin and their friends giggled and recorded video on an iPad.

“It was funny because they were making faces,” she said. “It makes me feel happy.”

Dr. Jackie Miller, Esme’s mother, who works in the emergency room at Gordon Hospital, said the support shown by students and faculty at Westwood is amazing.

“I can’t believe they will do this for her,” she said.

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