At the age of four, Abigail Stewart was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that attacks her bones.
When she turned five, she celebrated her birthday and shared cake with doctors and nurses at Children's Hospital.
Abigail is now 11, in remission and on Friday was named the hospital's 2018 child ambassador by the Children's Hospital Foundation.
The Children's Hospital Champion will share her story of illness and recovery with thousands of kids in schools, and hundreds of adults at galas and golf tournaments, speaking for the 120,000 children treated at the facility each year. The program honours remarkable children who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges.
In March Abigail will travel to Ottawa to meet other champions from children's hospitals across North America. And then its off to Orlando, for a four-day publicity blitz trip to Disney World, where she may meet a celebrity or two.
She was pretty excited Friday during a foundation media event attended by parents, hospital officials and medical staff and Walmart store managers; the retail chain is the program's major sponsor, raising more than $5 million over the past 11 years. Air Canada subsidizes the flights kids take to share their stories.
Logan Quatember, the 2017 champion, passed the torch to Abagail and presented a $25,000 cheque to show for his work raising the foundation's profile over the last year. He had a few words of wisdom to share with his successor.
"You're going to have to smile," the 13-year-old said. "Everybody loves kids that smile. Be you, show off with what you have and don't hide. Your story will inspire people."
Abigail lives with a blood disorder known as Multisystem Langerhans Histiocystosis, a condition that causes her white blood cells to eat away at her bones.
"Abigail was diagnosed at the age of 4 1/2," said her mother, Ashley Stewart. "After all the skin biopsies, she started a year of chemo and steroids and when the treatment was done, the tumours were not active anymore."
But that doesn't mean her daughter is in the clear.
A year ago she lost most of her hearing and underwent surgery to restore much of it. She lives with neuropathy, wears a leg brace to steady herself and takes medication to blunt the pain.
"She is doing great," said her mother. "She comes out smiling from all this. She has a passion to raise money. It's who she is."
In the past year Abigail has helped raise more than $36,000 for the foundation, both on her own and working with Conservative MLA James Teitsma (Radisson) who was also on hand to support his fundraising buddy.
Abigail responded with a giggle when asked about her poise on the public stage, and credited Girl Guides and public-speaking classes in school for building her confidence.
"They helped me get out of my comfort zone and make new friends," she said.
Her first official gift was a stack of business cards as high as a slice of layer cake to hand out to prospective donors.
Alexandra believes every story has a life of its own with a heartbeat and body and legs. She’ll probe for a pulse and check out its shape from every which way, until she feels it and sees it. So be patient with her. She can be exasperating.