CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Savanna Anchell is a Chesterfield County student battling cancer. Her bone marrow transplant left her unable to go to school with her friends.
That is until this week, the final one of the year.
The cheers may have come from under surgical masks, but they were echoing through Clover Hill Elementary this week, all to welcome a 3rd grade classmate on her first day of school on the last week of the school year.
Savanna has been battling leukemia since being diagnosed in May of last year. A bone marrow transplant from her brother and all of the treatments and drugs that came with it left her body fragile. She’s been unable to go to school where she might get sick.
She has spent months recovering with one goal in mind.
“I always bugged my doctor, ‘when do I get to go back to school? When do I go back to school?’” Savana said.
When asked by 8News’ Morgan Dean how it felt to be back in school, Savana replied, “really good!”
While Savana was not in school, classmates had an ape as her stand in — a stuffed monkey named Sam.
Part of the Monkey in my Chair program, Sam was a visual reminder that Savanna was there in spirit, even if she couldn’t be there in person.
Sam went on lots of adventures with the class and her classmates in turn sent letters and emails with Sam to Savanna to keep her in the loop.
Across the school, staff and students also put together this video to let Savanna know they were thinking about her. Her classmates FaceTimed with her while she was in the hospital to cheer her up and to get a first-hand view of her cancer journey.
The Clover Hill community also held fundraisers and took part in charity walks in Savanna’s honor. Her mom, fighting back tears as she watched Savanna take her seat this week, says the family couldn’t have done it alone.
For Savanna, who is now cancer free and is now managing the side effects of the treatments returning to class isn’t the finish line but an important milestone near the end of her marathon as she looks to return to school full time this fall.
Right now, she’s enjoying the most normal of things — sitting in class with kids her age.
“Just paying attention, learning more for fourth grade, getting to see some of my friends,” Savana explained.
As for Sam, who even scored a picture in the class yearbook, he’s about to retire after a job well done. But Savanna says he will be back to monkey around at school.
“I’ll bring him back sometimes — just to say hi,” Savana said.
When Savanna returned to school, the class was treated to a pizza party, which might not seem like a big deal to most, but she hasn’t been able to eat pizza since her bone marrow transplant.