HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The parents of Maya Smith, a Henrico girl who battled a rare brain cancer for the better part of two years, are honoring their late daughter they say continues to be an inspiration.
The 14-year-old honor roll student, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and endured rounds of chemo and radiation, passed away on Sept. 6.
While Maya went into remission and became the face of Anthem Lemon-Aid, raising thousands of dollars for childhood cancer, the tumor returned in November.
Maya's parents, Melissa and Ron Smith, said their Warrior Princess kept fighting and was worried about everyone but herself.
“I jokingly say she raised me to be tough for what she has gone through," Melissa Smith said. "So that is what I will have with me forever.”
Maya's dream fulfilled: 'This is a masterpiece'
Throughout her journey, Maya maintained a dream of becoming a published author.
“She was about six or seven and wanted to write a book,” Melissa Smith said.
Last spring her dream became a reality when her book, Flight of Friendship, arrived.
The main character, Misty the bird, was based loosely on Maya’s journey.
“Misty spread her wings and gathered up her resilience,” Melissa Smith said. “This is a masterpiece [is] what I call it.”
Maya even held a book signing with her family and friends.
Her parents said it was one of the happiest moments of their daughter’s short life.
“A huge electric smile came over her face. She literally read the book to me right there," Ron Smith remembered. “This just defines who she was... No matter what obstacles were in her way she found a way to overcome them.”
Mom: 'She never talked about how hard it was'
Melissa Smith said her daughter never let her illness define her.
"She never talked about how hard it was for her. She just kept going. She kept smiling," she remembered.
Ron Smith offered these wise words.
"Far too often it is easier to say, ‘What I can’t do.’ But she would say, 'What I can do?'” Ron Smith said. "She refused to stop living. She refused to stop living."
Melissa and Ron Smith are numb adjusting to life without their beloved Maya and that electric smile.
"The house is quiet without her,” Melissa said.
Mom and dad said their Maya will forever remain an inspiration.
“Although it was a short time, she lived a big full life. A legacy she will leave behind forever. I’m very thankful. Very thankful.”
There will be a viewing at the March Funeral Home on Laburnum Avenue Friday, Sept. 13. Maya’s funeral will be held Saturday, Sept. 14 at Little Elam Baptist Church in Charles City County. The public is invited.
Click here if you would like to order a copy of Maya's book, Flight of Friendship.
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.
Find unique, award-winning stories every night on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m.