Growing up, Grace Waller was an all-around athlete who found success in many sports. However, just one week after the Illinois High School State Swimming Finals in November 2008, Grace learned that she had a tumor in her femur and, following a biopsy, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer). At that point, her battles quickly turned from racing in the pool to fighting cancer.
Grace immediately began chemotherapy treatments at Rush University Children's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. After a few months of treatment, she had surgery to remove the tumor, 6 inches of her femur, the surrounding muscle, and her entire knee…immediately followed by surgery to install an artificial femur and knee. The surgery was a success and for the next 8 months she continued her follow-up chemotherapy treatments at Rush. Nearly a year following her diagnosis, as a junior in high school, Grace completed her 20th and final round of chemotherapy.
Throughout the process, Grace never gave up on her dream of competing as an athlete at the collegiate level. With dedication and perseverance, she made a full recovery and eventually achieved her goal of becoming an NCAA student-athlete after receiving a scholarship to swim Division I at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
After graduating college, Grace found herself eager to give back to the cancer community; thus, the Amazing Grace Organization was formed. AGO is a non-profit organization created to spread joy and happiness to those battling cancer. Grace attributed her positive spirits throughout her treatment to the continued support of her family and friends. Every card, gift, visit, and uplifting message gave her the strength needed to get through each and every day.
During a special round of chemotherapy, one of Grace’s best friends organized a care package—a suitcase full of several individually wrapped gifts. Each gift was marked to be opened at specific times throughout the days that she was in the hospital receiving treatment. The care package provided excitement and something to look forward to during the long hours she spent in her hospital bed. Grace’s aim for AGO is to provide similar experiences to those currently receiving treatment for cancer. It is her hope that such care packages will lift spirits and encourage strength within other patients, as they had once for her.