To talk about Maya is to describe the cutest, funniest, sassiest kid with the best personality and biggest, brightest smile! You can just see from the photos on this website how she was so funny and full of life! While Maya’s story is sad, it’s also a story of inspiration and love. She battled cancer for 6 ½ years but throughout her fight she remained positive and hopeful, always wearing that brilliant, beautiful smile. She loved laughing at large flocks of birds flying overhead and hanging her head out the window when riding in the car. She was wiser than her years with an amazing zest for life!
Maya’s journey began in April 2011 when, after struggling with fatigue and severe nosebleeds for months, she was finally given a blood test with alarming results. Her family was sent to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer. Not only did she have AML, but it was also discovered that she had a chromosomal abnormality that made her type of cancer even harder to treat. Her family was told that a bone marrow transplant was her only option for survival. In September 2011, she received her first lifesaving bone marrow transplant, thanks to a lovely young woman named Kayleigh, who donated her lifesaving cells. The chemo prior to the transplant made Maya very sick, and she was almost ineligible for the transplant, but thanks to the grace of God and many prayer warriors, she pulled through and went on to receive Kayleigh’s stem cells. Maya recovered quickly from the transplant and remained in remission for several months until her unfortunate relapse in February 2012. It was then determined that a second bone marrow transplant was needed. In August 2012, Maya received a new set of lifesaving cells from her second donor, Mike* (read Mike and Maya’s inspirational story here). Maya sailed through the second transplant and returned to living a relatively normal childhood (as normal as can be after fighting cancer twice!). She enjoyed horseback riding lessons, ballet, performing in the local community theater group, and high school winter guard. Life was good, and she savored every minute of it! It was a glorious 4 years of remission.
In June 2016, Maya started complaining that she wasn’t feeling well. Sadly, a blood test revealed that once again, her cancer had returned, and this time with a vengeance. Her family was devastated but prepared to go to battle once again. After consulting with the doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, it was decided that she would undergo a trial chemotherapy as an attempt to put her cancer into remission before enduring a third bone marrow transplant to be administered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The third transplant would also be a trial protocol using her daddy’s cells. The chemo worked like a charm, and she achieved remission. Several months later Maya and her mother, Bonnie, packed up their things and moved to Memphis to start preparations for her third bone marrow transplant at St. Jude. They resided at the Target House, residential furnished apartments for patient families being treated at St. Jude. Everything at St. Jude is completely paid for by donors. Maya’s treatments, medications, food, groceries, and housing were completely paid for by the hospital. Families at St. Jude NEVER receive a bill from the hospital for anything! St. Jude believes that the only thing a family should ever worry about is helping their child LIVE.The Collins family fell in love with this amazing hospital as it became their home away from home.They became lifelong friends with the other families there, and the doctors and nurses became their second family. They will always be incredibly grateful to St. Jude, which they warmly refer to as the “Disney of all hospitals.” It is a place of sadness, but to walk the halls of the hospital you can’t help but feel the hope, love, and even joy that resonates within the walls of this beautiful institution.
A few months after Maya’s third transplant, she developed complications and became very sick. Her immune system was depleted as a result of the transplant, and she was unable to recover. Her condition quickly deteriorated, and she was transported to the ICU. On October 3, 2017 Maya gained her angel wings and was once again whole and pain free. She will forever be in our hearts, and her legacy will continue on to make this world a kinder, more loving place as we work together in Maya’s memory to find a cure for pediatric blood cancers.
Fly high Maya The Magnificent. Free of pain and suffering. Hang your head out the window and catch the breeze in your hair. Laugh at the birds. Dance with the angels. We can't wait to see you someday, twirling and pirouetting with your angel friends in Heaven. I will wait for that moment with every breath that I take. Until then my sweet one...Maya Grace Collins 9/12/03 - 10/3/17
-Bonnie Collins, Maya’s Mother, on the day that Maya gained her wings.
To read the entire story of Maya’s journey and for updates to the Live Like Maya Foundation’s upcoming endeavors, please follow our blog at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/mayacollins
To watch all of Maya’s vlogs during her journey at St. Jude click here.
*Maya’s second bone marrow donor, Mike, now works at St. Jude Children’s Research hospital. To read more of Mike and Maya’s inspirational story click here.