Ava Weis, 10, knows a lot about cancer. More than most adults.

The fifth grader has already been across the state of Michigan and back for precision treatment at Corewell Health Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital and Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and has spent countless hours in the hospital.

The good news is, she’s finally in remission. And spending more time at home getting back to her best life.

Ava finished proton therapy at Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital in June 2022 and has been out of treatment for seven months.

She is spending her free time with her puppy, Ollie, at her side and is enjoying every minute of being a kid again.

Ava’s mom, Jennifer, said Ava has taken up the ukulele after spending time with music therapists at both hospitals.

“The ukulele and guitar have followed her through this entire journey,” Jennifer said.

It all started at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, when Music Therapist Katie Rushlow introduced Ava to a box of instruments.

“Other hospitals don’t have the same level of music therapy,” Jennifer said. “We are appreciative for the program and special attention during treatment. And for the introduction to her new hobby … the ukulele.”

Back to school

Ava is back to school again and only needs to visit the hospital every three months for checkups to ensure she stays in remission, Jennifer said.

She’s at a new school this year and she’s busy navigating new teachers, friends and sports teams. All while strumming the ukulele in her free time, too.

“She was very nervous to go to a new school … she didn’t really have any hair when she went back,” Jennifer said. “It felt like a lot. But she did better than I ever could have expected.”

Ava had spent much of the previous year out of school while she and her family were traveling back and forth across the state for her treatment, so it took a little time to get back in the swing of things.

“She jumped right in with both feet and never missed a beat,” Jennifer said. “You’ve never seen a kid more excited to go back to school.”

Jennifer said it was nice to let her be herself and be a kid again.

“Her biggest worry was which folder to use for each class,” she said.

A holiday scare

Ava fell ill in December right around the holidays, and her family worried it might be the cancer coming back again.

On Christmas Eve, Ava asked her mom to feel the lymph nodes in her throat, as they were very swollen and painful.

“This is where her cancer started before,” Jennifer said.  “I could see the panic in her face. I said, ‘Honey, you’re sick, and I’m sure this is just your body’s reaction to being sick.’”

They visited her pediatrician and confirmed Ava’s body was simply fighting off a virus.

“A 10-year-old shouldn’t have to think about these things,” Jennifer said. “She is still struggling with a weaker-than-average immune system, so we have to be careful.”

Jennifer said she and her husband, Mike, have explained the cancer to Ava as much as is possible for a 10-year-old to understand. They gave her all the information and the option to talk to a counselor or therapist if she wanted.

“I always wonder how much she thinks about it. And we never know,” she said.

But Ava is one strong girl, and she’s busy loving her life as much as possible, Jennifer said.

High hopes ahead

Ava has no upcoming appointments and she’s only doing checkups at the hospital every three months.

“We’re hoping for even less frequent visits soon,” Jennifer said.

Doctors told Ava’s parents that after the first two years of remission, Hodgkin lymphoma is less likely to return. So the family remains optimistic.

Ava is getting into theatre and music and recently participated in a play through a community theatre. She played a supporting role in “Cyrano de Burger Shack,” a very French classic, adult-themed play that was adjusted for a younger audience.

“She now feels like a Broadway star,” Jennifer joked.

Ava also joined the basketball team and is keeping busy learning all the new moves on the court.

She also likes science and reading.

Ava’s dog, Ollie, a fun-loving English shepherd with a huge heart, will be a year old in February, just one day after Ava’s birthday.

“He follows her every single step of the way,” Jennifer said. “The two are just inseparable.”

And Ava’s cat, Caramel Willy, still loves her to the moon and back.

“As parents, we always worry about our babies,” Jennifer said. “We want them to be healthy and safe while also being appreciated for all of their uniqueness and quirkiness.”