When Annalisa Schultz was five-years-old, her mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Shortly thereafter, the two became involved in the West Salem Relay for Life.
Annalisa took her involvement a step further, working her way up to team captain for the West Salem Relay for Life and starting her own effort to help cancer patients.
A word of encouragement and something for the aches and pains is what the now 11-year-old Annalisa does for cancer patients in West Salem, some two to three times her age.
“I came up for the idea to write them letters. No letter is the same and then I would give them a rice bag,” said Annalisa.
Each rice bag is made from a special fabric and can be warmed in the microwave to be used like a heating pad. Annalisa and her grandmother have sewn a few hundred.
“We have rice bags all over the house now. I think it’s her way of really coping with everything she went through too,” said Erica Shultz, Annalisa’s mom.
“She had to grow up very quickly when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She did a lot of things at five for herself at five-year-olds that many people wouldn’t have to,” said Dan Schultz, Annalisa’s father.
“It was hard. I didn’t know what cancer was. I thought it was just a mole on my mom’s lungs. That’s what I thought it was. But then when you start to think about it, the hardest thing is seeing my mom with no hair,” said Annalisa.
At 11, Annalisa is catching up on kid stuff. She spends time on her phone texting friends and playing with her dog, Tank, but says cancer will always be in the back of her mind.
“It made me feel like I’m stronger. I know more about the disease. I want to help people who have it. I know I’m doing something good,” said Annalisa.