GLENDALE, Ariz. — Bubbly, outgoing Elizabeth Cameron has no problem with public speaking. The larger the crowd, the better.
So when the 14-year-old had a chance to speak to 13,148 people at Gila River Arena on Saturday as part of the Arizona Coyotes’ Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, Cameron quickly embraced the opportunity to shadow and serve as co-host with Coyotes in-game arena host Jill Galus.
“You might have noticed I’m not very shy,” said Cameron, offering a bright smile she’s constantly willing to share. “Not a whole lot fazes me at this point. And having a chance to talk about something I’m passionate about … what’s to be nervous about?”
Cameron was one of seven kids and cancer survivors who spent the night assisting Coyotes personnel with their jobs, from equipment manager and Paw Patrol dancer to television play-by-play and public address announcer.
Cameron has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects about 200 people, mostly children, annually in the United States. A pain in her hip that she thought came from too much dancing turned into eight rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove her left hip, followed by six more rounds of chemotherapy.
“I call myself ‘the one-hip wonder,’” Cameron said. “I am now classified as NED, no evidence of disease, but I won’t be officially cancer free for five years. I get bone scans every three months to make sure. But I’m moving forward.
“There were tough days. Down days. But when you remember that someone else dealing with this has it worse than you do, it makes those days more manageable. “
Cameron devotes all her free time to making videos chronicling her progress and collecting donations to assemble make-up bags for other young girls going through chemotherapy. She hopes to start her own non-profit organization and wants to speak about her experiences every opportunity she can.
“I want to use my second chance to help others, and to honor those who had this and [weren’t] as lucky as I was,” she said. “What I’ve gone through I wouldn’t have wished for, but I would do it again because of the opportunity I’ve been given to help others. It’s the greatest gift.”
Braden Waymire, 15, joined Fox Sports Arizona announcers Matt McConnell and Tyson Nash during the broadcast of the Coyotes’ 3-2 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. The view from the broadcast booth and the chance to join the team made his eyes widen.
“The whole night, I’ve just been smiling and thinking, ‘How amazing is this?’” said Waymire, who is working hard to regain full use of his left arm and leg after having a stroke related to his brain tumor. Waymire has had brain and eye surgeries.
Waymire is an advanced student and wanted to pursue a future in engineering before having multiple surgeries related to his cancer. Now his focus has changed toward biotechnology and working to find cures for cancers like the one he has.
“This is the place where I can do the most good and have the biggest impact,” Waymire said. “The more you learn about what you’re dealing with, the more intrigued you are to find out what you can do about it.”
Waymire’s enthusiasm level is much like Cameron’s. He said the other kids he met Saturday dealing with cancer have that similar trait.
“It takes just as much energy to be angry or sad as it does to be happy,” Waymire said. “Which one is more fun?”