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A Success Story - Letti Connelly

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Letti Connelly 

Letti has graduated from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska, with a degree in in Early Childhood Special Education.  Her cancer kept her from affected the left side of her brain where speech is located and kept her from talking until she was six.  Due to this, she has a passion for working with the deaf and hearing impaired.  She has survived Neuroblastoma with Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS).  In her own words:

“My cancer was diagnosed when I was 10 months old.  I had neuroblastoma with opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome.  My parents were told the neurological debilitating OMS occurs in only 2% of children with neuroblastoma.  I was the only child in Nebraska with it in 1989.  The neuroblastoma was successfully removed surgically, but the OMS disease continued to plague my nervous system. My doctors did not know what to do to arrest the illness.  Finally, a brilliant immunologist named Dr. Roger Kobayashi tried an experimental treatment on me.  It was successful, and I was the first child ever to receive it.  Now it is the protocol for treating children who have OMS associated with neuroblastoma.

Although I do not remember much of this, my cancer left me developmentally delayed.  By the end of my kindergarten year, my speech started to develop and as my mom says today, I haven't stopped talking since.  I had the best special education teachers, which helped me reach my goal of being mainstreamed into the regular classroom.  What was given to me by my special education teachers, I hope to pass on to other children who do not have an easy road ahead of them.  If it wasn't for my special education teachers, I definitely would not be where I am today.

My cousin Billy is profoundly deaf and when our family traveled to visit his family, I always wished that somehow I could communicate with him.  This feeling about becoming an interpreter and communicating with the deaf/hearing impaired was so intense that I talked my mom into allowing me to begin American Sign language classes at a local community college when I was 15.   

My goals have shifted since elementary and middle school of becoming solely a special education teacher.  I have a strong desire to become a speech pathologist.  This field of work would enable me to work with children of many disabilities as well as to incorporate my American Sign Language skills.  I wish to help children with disabilities to learn ways to cope and develop techniques to better their lives.

As Letti presses on toward her goals, Cancer Survivors' Fund will be supplying encouragement and resources.

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