PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Since childhood, melodies have been the soundtrack of Maria Colón’s life.
“She just sang incessantly,” said her mom, Lisa.
That is until about years ago to the week, when doctors diagnosed Maria, then just 14-years-old, with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The West Chester native faced rounds of chemotherapy and radiation to her throat and chest, rendering her unable to sing, let alone speak.
“When everything started happening, I lost my voice and I was absolutely devastated,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t understand. This isn’t something I can just be like, okay, I’ll just sound raspy for the rest of my life.’ This IS my life.”
“She lost her voice, she lost her hair, she lost everything,” her mother added. “It was just a whirlwind of awfulness. We had a 10 or 11 a.m. morning appointment thinking she had some kind of gastrointestinal issue that I truly expected would be just minor – and at 7 that night, we were told they thought she had lymphoma. Of course I’m grateful she was saved, obviously. But her life was gone for five months. While that might not seem like a long time, it’s a long time for a 14-year-old.”
Miraculously – and literally, Maria found her voice again.
“I was just praying over and over again, ‘Please don’t let me lose my voice. Please just let me have this because this is the only thing I have when I don’t have anyone else,’” Maria said.
In misery, she found meaning, and the experience sparked an original song called ‘Recover.’
“That song is coming from a place of feeling so alone and so unhappy,” she said.
She’s in a different place now, in part thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which brought her dream of recording her own song and music video in a professional studio to life.
Artists like The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill have recorded at Studio Breed in Spring Garden, and now Maria gets to add her name to that list.
“We can’t change the course of a child’s illness or prevent one from happening, but to provide an experience that gives them hope, joy – it empowers them to believe in themselves and the future they have in front of them,” said Molly Gatto, Vice President of Mission Delivery with Make-A-Wish.
Maria’s future looks bright; much like a song track, her life so far has been filled with peaks and valleys.
But the resounding, resilient chorus is this.
“Don’t give up. Just don’t do it,” she said. “Find what it is that makes you who you are. Because other people can’t take a purpose away from you and they also can’t give you one. You have to give it to yourself.”