Written by: Mary Henderson
Gabrielle Tweed is a vivacious 13-year-old who has lived in Richmond Hill for the past year. She loves playing volleyball, swimming, running and going to the beach. She has a contagious smile and a lively spirit, and she is Savannah’s 2017 Girl of the Year.
When she was seven years old, Gabi’s mom Lisa noticed a large lump on her daughter’s throat while they were on a field trip. Gabi felt fine and was able to eat and drink, but for good measure, they went to the doctor that day after school.
The doctors believed it to be an infection, and told them to prepare for Gabi to have surgery that night to remove whatever it was. However, the Ear Nose Throat Doctor (ENT) believed Gabi would bleed to death if he were to take out the knot right then. He gave her some medication in hopes that it would shrink so it would be easier to remove. That following Friday, when Lisa returned from work, she realized that Gabi’s tonsil began cutting her airway off. As Gabi slept, she would make squeaking noises and her chest would cave in.
Lisa then called the ENT and he said to get Gabi to the hospital right away in fear that she may suffocate. The knot turned out to be a tumor, and Gabi received a Burkitt’s Lymphoma diagnosis. She then had to enter the hospital and began chemotherapy. The chemotherapy lasted from October to January. Since Burkitt’s Lymphoma is so aggressive, it is treatable and responds well if caught in time.
Gabi celebrated five years of being cancer free this past January. She has maintained an exceptional and inspiring attitude throughout the entire process and ever since.
During the fall of last year, Gabi was chosen as The Girl of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual Man & Woman of the Year Campaign. For ten weeks, engaged candidates throughout the community compete in honor of the Boy & Girl of the Year, local children who are blood cancer survivors. Using their contacts, connections and creativity, each candidate seeks to raise the most money. Every dollar counts as a vote, and the man and woman who earn the most votes at the end of the 10-week campaign are named Man & Woman of the Year.
The money earned during this campaign goes directly towards research to advance breakthrough therapies for blood cancer. In fact, almost half of the new anti-cancer drugs approved by the FDA from 2000 through 2013 were originally designed to treat blood cancers, and LLS helped advance most of them. The campaign also serves as a means of educating and informing the public on how to support those with blood cancer.
Since the campaign began, Gabi has had many fun and unique experiences with the candidates. She’s been to fundraisers and has given speeches at kick-off events. Her favorite activity that she’s gotten to do so far was touring an O-Search boat. And one of her candidates took her dress shopping for the last event of the campaign, the Grand Finale.
The Grand Finale is the culmination of the Man & Woman of the Year teen week fundraising campaign. The evening includes dinner, a live and silent auction and the announcement of the 2017 Man, Woman and Student of the Year.
You can read more about Gabi in the upcoming edition of Richmond Hill Reflections. Until then, please consider joining in the fight against cancer by donating to LLS. You can donate by visiting: http://www.mwoy.org/ga/