SHELTER ISLAND - A counselor at a camp for children fighting cancer was herself diagnosed with the disease, but she has reached an important milestone in her battle.
As the director of Camp Adventure in Shelter Island, Melissa Firmes-Ray has spent 20 years bringing smiles to the faces of children with cancer. Last September, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Firmes-Ray needed a stem-cell transplant to survive, and doctors at Stony Brook University launched a global search for a marrow match. On Jan. 7, an anonymous donor fulfilled Firmes-Ray's hope. She received a stem cell transplant thanks to a 21-year-old man who donated his healthy, A-positive blood cells.
Firmes-Ray still faced the possibility that her body would reject the new cells. She fought through extreme fatigue and pain by focusing on a pledge she made to the Camp Adventure children.
It has been seven months since Firmes-Ray's transplant, and tests show she is now in remission.
Last week, she returned to her post as director at the camp, where the children proudly welcomed her back. The children said they couldn't have imagined camp without her.
"It was like a huge milestone that I got here," Firmes-Ray said. "I love them, and I'm very grateful."