As an 11 year old, the most Morgan Smithling was concerned about was practicing for her swim meets, what her sisters were up to, and showing her family’s Brown Swiss cows in the next county fair. In January 2013, however, Morgan, a then sixth grader at Marcus Whitman Middle School in the town of Rushville, and her family learned she would have to face a much bigger concern – cancer.
In November 2012, Morgan, now 12, occasionally complained that she was suffering from back pain. Her parents Doreen and Kevin thought it had to do with her sciatic nerve, but when the pain intensified in January they knew something wasn’t right. Doreen took Morgan to the local Interlakes Orthopedic facility, where doctors ordered an MRI and discovered a tumor in her pelvis. Morgan was then referred to Strong Memorial Hospital. Doctors performed a biopsy and, shortly after, Morgan was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that primarily affects children and adolescents.
Prior to starting chemotherapy treatments at Golisano Children’s Hospital on Feb. 15, 2013, Morgan could hardly walk and had to rely on getting around in a wheelchair. She had been an active member of several swim teams, including her school’s modified girls’ swim team and area swim club, as well as the Clifton Springs YMCA, but the pain and immobility became too much, holding Morgan back from one of her greatest passions.