by Angie Blaser, Ava’s mom
Ava Blaser was three years old when she was diagnosed on Father’s Day 2011 with Stage 5 Bilateral Wilms (a form of kidney cancer in both kidneys). This was just five days after her first dance recital. She went through 12 weeks of chemo to try to shrink the multiple tumors and save as much kidney tissue and function as possible. They had to remove her entire left kidney and part of her right. She then had six rounds of radiation to that partial remaining kidney to try to kill off any remaining cancer growth, followed by another 15 weeks of chemo. In January 2012, Ava was declared cancer free.
For the past six years, Ava has gone to the oncologist and nephrologist every year to monitor for side effects of her previous chemo treatment and to monitor the kidney function of her partial remaining kidney. On January 29, 2018, at her six-year out-of-treatment oncology visit, an ultrasound picked up a spot on the outside edge of her partial remaining kidney. A CT scan confirmed what they were seeing and within a week, Ava had major abdominal surgery to remove the tumor. Once again, it was Wilms. Ava had a second abdominal surgery two weeks later to remove and preserve one of her ovaries because the chemo she is currently receiving causes infertility. A week after that, she began a harsh relapse treatment known as ICE-T for the next six months.
Dance has been an escape for her throughout this journey. Ava competed “Game of Survival” that her sister, Emma, choreographed, as an independent entry at Imagine Dance Challenge where she won first place overall, less than seven weeks after two abdominal surgeries and 10 days after her first round of inpatient chemo. There are major swings in the way she’s feeling as she goes through treatment, but whenever she feels up to it, she’s always dancing and continues to compete. She recently placed first overall for her solo and duet (with her sister) less than 24 hour after finishing 10 days of chemo. Her determination to dance as she goes through treatment is a huge part of what gets her through it. Ava wants to dance for kids who can’t dance while they are fighting their way through their own journey. Countless numbers of young dancers have approached her at these recent competitions to express how much she has inspired them.
Ava and Emma have been invited to perform and speak at CureFest for Childhood Cancer on the National Mall in Washington D.C. on September 15-16, 2018. The annual event’s theme this year is, “A national movement begins with the first steps,” a theme that Ava lives by while encouraging others to find their own unique, rhythm, despite formidable challenges.