BRADENTON, Fla. - At Sea Breeze Elementary School in Bradenton, handmade purple signs line the hallways to show the love and concern second-graders have for a classmate facing the biggest challenge of her life.
"She's really an inspiration to everyone she meets," said teacher Lori Schumaker. "She always has a smile on her face, no matter what’s going on."
In September, Aubrey Romero's face began swelling. What appeared to be an infected tooth turned out to be a rare form of cancer called malignant dentinogentic ghost cell tumor. Her desk has sat empty for weeks.
"Aubrey had to have her face, all of the side removed, teeth, part of her gum, lip. It was the size of a softball, the tumor," said Schumaker.
Bones, muscle and ligaments from Aubrey's shoulder were used to reconstruct her face and through it all, her smile never faded.
"No matter how much pain she’s in...I saw her right after surgery and she still had this huge smile on her face and crawled up in my lap and said, ‘I love you,’" Schumaker commented.
Doctors initially thought Romero was cancer-free, but additional testing showed the cancer had moved near her brain.
Now, at 7 years old, she faces six weeks of radiation and possible chemotherapy in Miami.
On Friday, students can donate a dollar or more and trade in their school uniform to wear something purple for the day. Purple is Aubrey's favorite color and money raised will go toward Aubrey's medical expenses.
"No child should ever have to go through this and she does it with such great spirit and such great hope," Schumaker offered.
Her teacher, classmates and school are holding onto hope that one day soon Romero will take her seat in class, again.
"She just really has a long road ahead of her and her chances of getting the cancer back are a little bit higher than normal. Just keep Aubrey in your thoughts and prayers," Schumaker added.
LINK: Click here for more information on how Romero’s classmates are trying to help.
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