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Maria Hayes has the perfect story for a Thanksgiving. We are revisiting a young girl you were first introduced to back in 2001. Avery Williams was then 3-years old. She was battling retinablastoma. A cancer in the eye. Treatment for the rare condition cost her an eye, as well as her hearing. But to see her today, you realize this teen isn’t struggling with any deficits. Here’s Maria’s story.
Listening to Avery Williams belt out a little Aretha Franklin, it’s hard to remember how much she’s had to overcome. A rare cancer that by age 3 robbed this Stoney Creek toddler of her left eye, and much of her hearing: “Everything is completely normal. I have annual checkups at Sick Kids Hospital just to see if anything is wrong. But everything has been going very well for the past year.”
Sitting across from Avery, you’d never want to suggest to this teen that she’s at some sort of disadvantage.
“When I see people with two eyes, I look at them like they’re aliens. How could you have 2 eyes; that’s weird. And they’re looking at me going you only have one that’s weird and a glass eye. So it’s really crazy. It’s funny to me.”
Ericka Dixon Williams is a proud Mom. She frequently finds inspiration from her daughter who is in a regular stream class, last year achieving honours: “She is probably the hardest working student any teacher will ever have in a classroom. How she functions is very seamless to the public, to the natural eye. And one wouldn’t know that she’s deaf blind. But I know and she knows the things that she needs the support for.”
The last 16-years have taught Ericka important life lessons, especially letting go of anything that is out of your control. Avery’s cancer, and the chance of it recurring top her list: “I pray that I have the strength to fight and be strong for her as when she was smaller. It will absolutely be emotionally way more difficult because she can speak, she can share her feelings. But do I worry about that every single day. No. I focus on the things that are within our control.”
Helping her daughter Avery develop her singing talents began early on, even at age 6: “I plan on going to Brock University to do study in the performing arts. And that’s pretty much my aspiration. But my dream, I really love the show Degrassi’s Next Generation. So to be a part of that cast would be totally amazing.”
Dreams are good for the Williams family. But so is the present: “I look at Avery. I look at my daughter Savoy and just our lives altogether. All the challenges and where we’ve come from and I am beyond thankful.”
A gala birthday party is being staged for next month to celebrate Avery’s sweet-16. The event is open to family, friends, and even members of the community who helped support the Williams family during their difficult years. Here are the details:
Avery’s Sweet 16th
Grand Olympia Stoney Creek