North Farmington High School senior Alyssa Abrou, president of the North Farmington H.O.P.E. club, stands at NFHS March 8 during a charity basketball game she organized.

North Farmington High School senior Alyssa Abrou, president of the North Farmington H.O.P.E. club, stands at NFHS March 8 during a charity basketball game she organized.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


North Farmington High senior beats cancer, helps others through charity game

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published March 21, 2018

 In between periods, a special game was held. For a donation, participants could play a basketball game for a chance to win a gift card. Noah Abrou, 7, tries to sink a basket before the player behind him can score.

In between periods, a special game was held. For a donation, participants could play a basketball game for a chance to win a gift card. Noah Abrou, 7, tries to sink a basket before the player behind him can score.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FARMINGTON HILLS  — Determination might as well be North Farmington High School student Alyssa Abrou’s middle name.

The 18-year-old senior faced a difficult journey when diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that impacts white blood cells — two days before her 12th birthday on Sept. 28, 2011.

“When I got sick … I had a party planned, which I was really excited to have, and I couldn’t keep anything down and I had a high fever,” Alyssa said, adding that her doctor said that she had an infection.

So her mother made her favorite soup — chicken lemon rice — to help her stay hydrated.

“I ate it, and about a half hour later it all came back up and my dad rushed me to the (emergency room),” Alyssa said.

She went to Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan, where she received her diagnosis.

Alyssa’s cancer has been in remission since Feb. 27, 2014. 

Alyssa’s illness caused her immense pain — cancer cells were located in her spine, and she had to endure over 100 spinal taps within four years — and she had to miss sixth through ninth grades. 

Her mother, Claudia Abrou, said she counted the spinal taps at Children’s Hospital.

“I counted 112, to be exact,” she said. “Her type of cancer, they (cancerous cells) like to hide in the spine,” she said, adding that Alyssa had fluid taken out of her spine and chemotherapy drugs were injected into it. “I think that is why she has back issues now. ... She complains a lot about her back hurting. … I think she was really traumatized with her treatment.”

When Alyssa came back to school, her grades plummeted to a 1.8 grade point average after being homeschooled. 

“I was just coming back and adjusting,” she said. Alyssa turned her 1.8 GPA her sophomore year into a 3.0 GPA her junior year and “traded up” to a 3.3 last school semester. She currently has a 3.8 GPA.

She said that having cancer is hard enough and being a student with cancer adds an entirely different element; she has compassion for those who experience what she did. That compassion moved her to start a club, H.O.P.E, or Healing Outstanding People Everyday. The club raises money for foundations for children with cancer. 

“I know how hard it is for kids with cancer, so that is why I started this club,” she said, adding that a lot of the money raised goes toward the nonprofit Camp Quality Michigan, which is a year-round facility operated for children with cancer. The location she supports, in particular, is the Fenton-based branch. 

“A lot of kids could go away for a week and experience being a kid (and) not having to worry about school, not having to worry about their illness and be around kids that understand what they are going through. … I went there for five years.”

Alyssa’s H.O.P.E. group held a charity basketball game featuring FPS teachers against each other March 8. The event raised about $500; past charity events Alyssa has organized include bake sales and craft project sales. 

NFHS teacher Sulamif Feldman, a sponsor for the club, said that Alyssa asked her to participate, and she described the club as hope for survivors of cancer.

Feldman said that the nascent club has about 10 members.

“This is like a small club, and it is hard, because so many other clubs and so many other places people can go and be part of,” Feldman said, adding that Alyssa wants more people to join.

She said Alyssa is “passionate,” “driven” and “dedicated” to her cause.

“In addition to all of this, (she is) still going to classes (for) pharmacy technician in the evening and still helps out different family members,” Feldman said. “She (has a) very rich life, and despite all of this, she still finds time to dedicate herself to raise money and organize events.”

Claudia Abrou described her daughter as her “angel,” and she chokes up sometimes when talking about Alyssa’s journey.

She said that her youngest child, her son, was 10 months old at the time of Alyssa’s diagnosis, and Alyssa was told that the road is not always easy.

“She’s very religious. We told her, ‘God gave you such an illness so you could help others,’” Claudia said.

Those words must have stuck, because Alyssa wants to go into the medical field.

“I want to go into pediatric oncology. I do want to be a physician in that field because I feel like that is my calling, considering what I went through,” she said. “I pushed through it and wouldn’t have been able to do it without my mom and my dad.”

Claudia said her daughter is strong in her own right and keeps on giving.

“I am very proud of her,” she said.

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