HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A 13-year-old Henrico girl battling brain cancer for the better part of two years accomplished "a dream come true" during her illness.
“That is how you express yourself or what you mean or what you say,” Maya Smith said. “I just think they are very powerful. That is what I think of them.”
Maya absorbs her daily lesson plan with homebound teacher, Mrs. Slater. The family kitchen serves as a classroom out of necessity.
While reading books authored by others is a necessity, Maya always dreamed of penning her own. But in April 2017, her goal took a backseat with a doctor’s diagnosis.
“She had an MRI and they found a tumor on the back of the brain,” Maya’s mother, Melissa, said. “Three days later May first she had brain surgery to remove the tumor."
Maya’s rare brain cancer affects about 400 American children every year. Subsequent chemo and radiation took their toll.
“I’ve had some rough spots but now I’m doing pretty good. Feeling pretty good. Doing well,” Maya said.
Mom Melissa said seeing her daughter endure the unthinkable was almost too much to bear.
“As a parent you want to fix everything, but you literally felt like my magic wand was broken,” Smith said.
But the girl who calls herself a Warrior Princess was not about to give up on her dream.
Last year, Red Fred Project, a national organization that helps 50 children with life-altering diseases to write books, selected Maya.
And A few months ago, Maya’s dream arrived in a cardboard box.
“When I first looked at the book, I looked at it in awe,” Maya remembered. “I love the way it feels. It's just kind of perfect for me.”
Maya hopes Flight of Friendship, which details the difficulty maintaining friends during her journey, will inspire readers to cherish loved ones.
“Just keep going at it. You can do it," Maya said. "Just keep going for that one dream -- that one goal. And you can get there, just keep trying."
Maya's father, Ron, said his daughter "amazes" her parents every day.
“Maya is the first person to think of others before she thinks of herself,” he said.
Parents Ron and Melissa say the book’s arrival is better than any medicine.
“She rarely complains about anything,” Melissa Smith said. “She makes it easy to care for her. She deserves it all. She really does.”
Maya Smith. From Warrior Princess to Wordsmith. Now you can add published author to her resume.
“This is more than a dream come true,” Maya said. “One of the best opportunities I’ve been able to be a part of. It's just a blessing really.”
Maya will hold a book signing and reading on Saturday, June 8 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Black History Museum & Culture Center of Virginia.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.