Miceala White and Anna Basso shared common bonds. The childhood friends attended the same elementary school and the same church. They also shared a common foe — cancer — and they supported and inspired each other, even as one battle drew to an end.
By David Sedeno
The Texas Catholic
This is a love story.
Not one of those sappy, sugary ones that is short-lived because its characters inevitably move on to something, or someone, else.
No, this is a story that pierces mothers’ hearts, brings fathers to their knees, moves sisters to unbridled tears, and reveals in brothers a maturity in order to cope.
It also is how a local Catholic church and two school communities are following the teachings of Christ in supporting two families whose love of Jesus and unwavering faith is an example for others to emulate.
More importantly, this is about Anna Basso and Micaela White, who first met in the days of berets, missing front teeth and white First Holy Communion dresses and who will be linked forever because of their families’ faith and perseverance and their own sweet pure love for each other.
Pigtails to Prom
It was second grade when Micaela remembers Anna coming to Prince of Peace Catholic School in Plano. Not long after those first days of getting to know each other they became close friends. Playing at recess, sitting next to each other as often as possible in the lunchroom, giggling on the way to Mass. For the next several years those became the norm.
“We were inseparable,” Micaela said of her friendship with Anna.
As they got older, in their junior high years, and although different subjects and activities separated them, they remained close, spending time together or talking or texting each other.
After their eighth grade confirmation and graduation, they enrolled at different high schools — Anna at John Paul II Catholic High School in Plano, and Micaela at Ursuline Academy, the all-girls private Catholic school in North Dallas.
Now, even as schools and time separated them, their friendship remained strong. It would soon be tested.
On Nov. 25, 2009, the day before Thanksgiving Day, David and Carol Basso received news that Anna had Stage 4 Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that afflicts about 250 people a year. The cause is not fully known, but the damage that it wreaks on a body is.
For the next few months, Anna underwent rounds of tests, biopsies and chemotherapy at Children’s Medical Center. And prayers surrounded her, from the Prince of Peace Catholic Church and JPII school communities to the Bishop Lynch Catholic High School campus and to others who didn’t know her but knew her story.
Friends created a blog site, 1million4Anna.com, to register that many prayers for Anna. Supporters raised money for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disoders at Children’s Medical Center.
Last fall, Anna, and Micaela, entered their senior year, preparing for homecoming, prom and other highlights of their last year in high school.
As Anna struggled and her family coped, others tried to bring normalcy to them last winter.
“An awesome boost to Anna’s spirit came in the form of a “Secret Santa” gift,” Carol Basso wrote in a blog entry on Jan. 5.
“An amazing, generous couple chose Anna and our family for their annual Christmas gift. Without having met Anna, but knowing about her, throughout the past year this couple has been praying faithfully for her. This Christian couple believes in sharing their blessings to honor the Lord and want Him to receive all praise, honor, and glory.
“We spent a week at their home in Colorado, our family and four of Anna’s friends. Anna’s happiness that week was the best Christmas gift! The escape from our normal life was fantastic! May we all share our gifts and blessings, all unique and special, in 2011.”
That blog posting also included another notation.
“A very special friend of Anna’s, Micaela, was diagnosed with leukemia a few days before Christmas. She is being treated at Children’s Medical Center, as well, with the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Please add Micaela and her sweet family to your prayers. Thank you.”
About a year later after her good friend had her cancer diagnosis, Micaela complained of not feeling well. Within an hour of taking her to an emergency room, Danny and Sharon White were rushing to Children’s Medical Center to begin treatment for leukemia.
“When I found out, Anna was one of the first people that I told,” Micaela would later say. “I knew she could relate, because she had already been dealing with cancer for a year when I got diagnosed.”
After that diagnosis, Anna was a constant friend. When chemotherapy took Micaela’s hair, it was Anna who showed her how to put on a wig and how to brush on the makeup.
When they were in the hospital at the same time, they would visit often, sometimes ending up in the same bed.
When they were apart, they talked on the phone, checking up on each other or leaving a voice mail, text, reflection or a reminder that the other one was there.
They wanted their senior year to be special, and it was. Micaela’s family had created “Micaela’s Army” and Ursuline students adopted “Micaela Mondays” during which they would pray and raise funds for her.
Anna would attend school as often as possible in between treatments. She was crowned homecoming queen and she went to her senior prom.
Both went to their respective graduation ceremonies, receiving standing ovations from each crowd.
Micaela, with the help of her father, took her final curtsy at Ursuline Academy and received her diploma from Bishop Kevin J. Farrell.
For once, she was doing what everyone else was doing.
“You don’t feel normal because you hear about all the normal things,” Micaela said. “Graduation was my big goal, because I didn’t get to go to Prom or do any of the senior year stuff.”
At the same time in Plano, Anna received her diploma in front of her fellow classmates at the JPII gym, a thunderous applause on her entrance in a wheelchair and a standing ovation when she was wheeled across the stage to receive her diploma from Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel.
Quinn Wolfe-Jones watched from his seat with his fellow 2011 JPII graduates. He said it was an inspiration to see Anna roll across the stage in a wheelchair with the help of a teacher.
“It showed me that my hardships are so minuscule compared to other people in the world,” he said. “Anna was stricken with cancer — a terrible cancer — and she was able to make it through all that time.”
After graduation, Micaela went home with her family and had barbecue.
Anna spent the evening with friends watching her favorite band, Manchester Orchestra, which serenaded her. She said it was the best night of her life.
A few days after graduation, and after her blog recorded more than 1 million prayers, Anna’s condition began to deteriorate. Her doctor had to make house calls because she was too weak to get out of bed.
“I think she used up all her strength on that day,” neighbor Mark Hall said. “She achieved what she wanted to.”
Anna died on Wednesday, June 8, at home with her family at her side.
“I saw a piece of Christ in her,” family friend Joanie Scott said. “I saw what He wants everyone else to do for everyone, which is to reach out to everyone.”
At her rosary at Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Anna’s friends talked about a girl who was more concerned about others than herself.
“She was one of the most genuine loving people I have ever met,” said friend Ari Mendiola. “God had to work through Anna to teach all of us that life is too short.
“I don’t think anyone else would have been able to handle it like Anna. She has made me a stronger person,” she said.
Because Anna was so concerned about others, especially Micaela, the Bassos asked that in lieu of flowers for Anna that prayers should focus and donations be made for Micaela, who had entered Children’s Medical Center in early June for the painful bone marrow transplant.
In early July, Micaela had a reaction to the O-negative platelets that she received and a community-wide effort is underway to search for A-negative platelets.
“She, we, still have a long road ahead of us,” Sharon White said. The 1million4Anna.com site is now flooded with pleas to help Micaela.
“Their tremendous support is not surprising because this is the kind of family they are and always will be,” Sharon White said of the Basso family.
She also said that Micaela continues to mourn her friend’s passing, but knows that Anna is free from pain and suffering.
“Micaela knows now that Anna is watching over her, supporting her and still taking care of her as she did before,” she said. “They could just look at each other, smile at each other and know what the other was feeling and meaning.
“This can never be replaced and is a huge loss for Micaela,” Sharon White said. “She knows what Anna would tell her and she knows what Anna wants for her to do. This gives Micaela strength.
“These two beautiful girls are such an example to us all in their strength, spirit and will.”
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