July 30, 2014

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Mother and daughter share ‘Living Angel’ award

LORAIN — At just 7 years old, Emily Zichi has already earned her halo.

“I have gone through some pretty tough times, and what I’ve learned is to always keep a positive attitude and to trust God,” she said Saturday as she accepted her Living Angel Award from the American Cancer Society at the annual Life Savers Ball at DeLuca’s Place in the Park.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Emily Zichi, 7, and her mom, Laura, were overcome with emotion after being introduced at the Life Savers Ball.

“I have seen others who need more help than I do right now, and I pray that their lives could be a lot easier,” she said.

Mature words for a second-grader, but Emily’s older than her years. Surviving acute lymphocytic leukemia can do that to a little girl.

Her mother, Laura Zichi, said she didn’t know last spring why Emily was so tired all the time. Doctors at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital found cancerous cells in her blood, and for six months, the Zichi family was terrified as Emily underwent heavy chemotherapy, she said.

“We were all very scared with every procedure we encountered,” Laura said. “But she adapted every time.”

Today, Emily’s hair has grown back and doctors say she has an excellent chance of a full recovery.

She still has to go in for weekly treatment — that will continue through June 2009 — but she’s learned to love the doctors she once feared. She’s even written her own little book called “My Team,” which features hand-drawn pictures of each of the people at Rainbow Babies who cares for her.

But just when the worst of Emily’s sickness was over, the Zichi family received another blow. Doctors told Laura Zichi she had breast cancer.

Laura Zichi said that news tested her faith, but she’s found new resolve and trust in God while undergoing 35 consecutive rounds of radiation therapy. Doctors told her Tuesday that she has an excellent chance to beat the cancer.

“In their own special way, mother and daughter stand out as a bridge over troubled water,” said Alexander Zolli, who presented the Living Angel award to both Emily and Laura Zichi on Saturday.

Zolli said one reason the Zichis were chosen for the honor is because they’ve worked so hard to help others, even while fighting for their own lives.

In the fall, the Zichis sent an e-mail to family and friends asking for donations to “Emily’s Hopeful Holiday.” Soon gifts started rolling in, and Emily, Laura and her husband, Tom Zichi, spent days packing puzzles, games, toys, crafts, scarves, hats, pillows and blankets into 189 gift bags.

Zolli said a 17-foot U-Haul rolled into a cancer ward at Rainbow Babies on Dec. 21 carrying all of the donations. The family also was able to give $9,000 to the hospital and another $1,000 in gift cards — plus they established a fund to assist patients needing financial help, he said.

“God created all of this for a greater plan,” Laura Zichi said.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.