A family’s strength in God, faith in humanity and confidence in the hearts of mankind were on display in the life of a special young lady named Michaela Bennett, the daughter of Tom and Beth Bennett of Spearsville, La. Michaela Bennett is a descendant of Greenwood. Her mother, Beth Bennett, (her married name), was known as Beth Pryor who was Born and raised right here in Greenwood. Beth Pryor is the daughter of Earl and Blanche Pryor. Earl was the postmaster of Greenwood from 1960 to 1984. Former President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the job. He made an unsuccessful run for the State Senate in 1988.
Anyways, Michaela Bennett was a very happy, healthy 17-year-old teenager at Ouachita Christian School in Monroe, Louisiana when in January of 2013 she started having severe headaches that only lasted a few seconds, but they would return during the day. They were so intense that she felt compelled to call her mother from school and tell her how bad they were getting. Tylenol didn’t seem to get rid of the headache at all. The headaches continued for several days, so Tom and Beth decided to take Michaela to the South Arkansas Medical Associates Clinic in El Dorado, Arkansas where they did a CT scan and found a mass on her brain. The next day an MRI was run and revealed two masses that were present on Michaela’s brain. The Nurse Practitioner at SAMA immediately made an appointment at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and by that afternoon they had performed more tests and did a biopsy on the tumors. The news of two masses in their little girl’s brain simply shocked Tom and Beth to the core. It was a parent’s worst nightmare. One day you have a happy normal teenager enjoying life and the next day you have a very sick little girl on your hands.
The biopsy showed that Michaela had a very rare form of brain cancer called Gliomatosis cerebri. Only 200 people in 2009 had this cancer. It is commonly characterized as neoplastic glial cells that affect various areas of the cerebral lobes of the brain. Gliomatosis cerebri behaves like a malignant tumor that is very similar to Glioblastoma.
While the Tumor Board at Children’s Hospital was meeting concerning the issue, Tom made arrangements to take Michaela down to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston, Texas to get a second opinion. The hospital MRI and biopsy were confirmed Gliomatosis cerebri. World-renowned Cancer specialist, Dr. Soumen Khatoua, a pediatric Neuro-Oncologist chose an aggressive type of treatment for Michaela’s situation. She received radiation 5 days a week for six weeks, while also receiving oral chemo pills on 42 different occasions.
Meanwhile, back home some very caring people were doing a very nice thing for Michaela. Jenifer Swainn with the non-profit group "Special Spaces" was looking for a child with cancer to help. Her organization completely remodels rooms for such special kids. She had contacted Missy Robertson, (wife of Jase Robertson of the Duck Dynasty show), and asked her if she knew of somebody that could use her organization’s help. Of course she knew about Michaela since her sons Reed and Cole, along with her nieces and nephews went to school with her. Missy made some calls to Michaela’s family members and arranged for Special Spaces to do the project. The Duck Commander Companies and the restaurant chain Cheddar’s were recruited to get on board with this project to completely redo Michaela’s bedroom for her and what a makeover it was! Jenifer Swainn came in from Knoxville, TN with her crew. The Commander Companies staff pitched in to help and the corporate staff from Cheddar’s did the cooking of the meals. Now these meals weren’t just chips and dip. They cooked some great five star meals for the crew while they were working.
Jenifer had previously sat down with Michaela and found out what her likes were which included pink camo, the Texas Rangers, New Orleans Saints, LSU football, deer hunting, duck hunting and fishing. While Jenifer went to work gathering the items for Michaela’s room, the volunteers got busy gutting the room. They pulled all of the carpet out, took out all of the old furniture, took down the curtains and were ready to start from square one. The remodeling crew replaced the carpet with a wood laminate floor, painted all the walls, and replaced the bedroom furniture including a couch that matched the bed. New bulletin boards were secured on the walls, which any teenager can use, new drapes, a new fan with a light that turned on with duck calls hooked to a lanyard was installed, a new bed with designer pillows that said, "Happy, Happy, Happy" along with new bedroom furniture replaced the old. Also a desk was installed with shelving around it with a mirrored backing, a flat screen TV was put on the wall for Michaela. Family pictures and a large autographed picture of Drew Breeze, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, were also hung on the wall. Michaela also received a pink camo Duck Commander shirt signed by the gang from the Commander Companies.
The revealing was at the end of the second day of the remodeling project. Michaela was just amazed at the remolding job of her room. When she looked to her left, there stood Jep Robertson, John Godwin and Justin Martin, cast members of the Duck Dynasty show. Michaela was simply speechless, she was so thankful for their kindness.
All of the treatments this young lady has gone through have made a difference. She had another CT scan on July 4th and it was determined that the mass had not grown at all. She will still be treated with chemo twice a month for the next year. The tumor is not showing any signs of advancing. The family is ecstatic for their little girl’s progress. Her mother, Beth, summed it up very well; "God has had his hand on Michaela through this entire journey." All I can add to that is, "God bless Michaela Bennett."