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A Success Story - Michele Labetti

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Michele Labetti

Michele is attending Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, majoring in Music Education.  Michele's battle with cancer has impacted her career goals as she has decided to major in Music Education so she can reach children with disabilities and cancer.  She has survived Retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina).  In her own words:

“My experience with cancer has impacted my life drastically.  I was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye, in 1996, at age two, at Memorial Sloan-Ketterling Cancer Center in New York, by Dr. Abramson. 

I continue to see an oncologist as well as Dr. James Dello Russo, an optometrist in Bergenfield, New Jersey, on a regular basis to insure the cancer has not returned.  Even though it has been many years, I would rather be safe than sorry. 

Even though I was diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, the cancer has impacted me to the point that I see life differently than a person with binocular vision.  I see life as a positive.  I am very lucky to be alive, and fortunate of my life situation today. 

I am so very grateful to be alive and well.  I am very grateful to not have had the cancer come back in my other eye.  I am one of the lucky ones; lucky enough that I can drive in the State of New Jersey with only having one eye.  As I was growing up, I was always told that I would not be able to drive a car because of my peripheral vision.  In the end, I overcame this hurdle and did what I wanted to do: drive like all of my other friends. 

Cancer has impacted my life in such a way that I want to give back to the community.  God has given me the gift to live as well as to sing.  I sing in the church choir at St. Mary's Church in Dumont, New Jersey.  I volunteer with the Bell Choir and help the Children's Choir with their monthly performances.  I have participated in the North Jersey Region 1 Chorus for the last several years in addition to the Bergen County Chorus of New Jersey in 2010. 

Having cancer has also impacted my career goals and choices.  I have been fortunate enough to discover why my passion is so great for my desire to major in Music Education: to give back to children, especially those who have a disability or cancer.  Music has the ability to calm a person and put them in a positive frame of mind.  I have found that volunteering with the Children's Chorus has been very rewarding in the fact that the teacher builds such special relationships with their students. 

Unfortunately, Montclair State University only accepts 100 students into their music program from the over 400 that applied.  So, I will start out as an undeclared major and later change my major to Music Education.  I have a very positive attitude and feel that I will overcome the challenge of getting accepted into the music program. 

Life is a great thing, and a great thing to be in it.  I can understand why some people want to fall off the face of the Earth when times are hard, but there is always a light at the end of every tunnel.  My light has been surviving Retinoblastoma as a young child, and being at a great point in my life: my senior year of high school, the prom, and college.  Most importantly, I have learned that I can do anything I want to do in my lifetime - even with my disability.  Since I have overcome my battle with cancer, I am lucky to have the chance to go to Montclair State University. 

Thank you Cancer Survivors' Fund for all your encouragement and support.  I will think of you with each note I sing and every life I change.”


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