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Pedal toward a cure

Mala Barrett poses with son Luke at Lake Baldwin. They are volunteers for the Bike for a Cure event on Saturday, March 12 in Hannibal Square.

Mala Barrett poses with son Luke at Lake Baldwin. They are volunteers for the Bike for a Cure event on Saturday, March 12 in Hannibal Square.

Kristy Vickery

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When Mala Barrett began experiencing pain in her pelvic area, bruising, fatigue and frequent nose bleeds her third trimester of her pregnancy, she knew something was not right.

“I finally had blood work done, after my water broke, and it was discovered my blood platelets were 5,000, and a typical platelet count is 150,000,” Barrett said. “They actually drew my blood twice because they thought it got mixed up in the lab since it was so bad.”

Barrett was immediately admitted to the hospital, as she gave birth to her son, Luke. A long series of rigorous tests followed.

Shortly after her first child was born, she was told she had an aggressive form of leukemia — acute myelogenous leukemia.

“I was given a 10-20 percent chance of living,” she said. “And my only chance for survival was a stem cell transplant.”

Then came the second shock. At nine weeks old, her son was also diagnosed with a cancerous liver tumor — unrelated to Barrett’s leukemia.

Although Barrett’s chance of survival was not high, she never gave up hope, she said. She knew she had to fight for her son — they had to fight together.

Fight for a cure

It has been nine years since both Barrett and her son Luke were diagnosed with cancer, and although they have both since won their own battles, they have not given up the fight for a cure.

Barrett is now continuing her battle with the help of The Parke House Academy, as well as many other sponsors, by hosting a Kids Bike for A Cure event on Saturday, March 12 in Winter Park, inviting children ages 3-12 to participate.

The event will also include lessons on spring safety for children, as well as various venues such as bicycle safety, water safety, children’s I.D. booth, sunburn protection and information on nutrition. There will also be an adult tricycle or multi-wheel race.

Parke House Academy Upper Division Director Megan Francis said they have received a tremendous amount of support from the community for this first-time event.

“We’ve been embraced by the community,” Francis said. “I think that shows the strength of our community… just to see how it’s been received, so we’re really excited about it.”

An inspiration

Baldwin Park’s Phoenix Real Estate Company manager Melissa Meloon said they are proud to be a sponsor of the event because Barrett is such an inspiration to them.

“Her story is an inspiration to all that have been touched by cancer,” Meloon said. “And now she is using her experience to help others, what’s better than that?”

Barrett said inspiring others has helped her win her own fight against leukemia.

“I knew given my odds, which were not good, that if I could make it, I could be inspiration for other people that were in my place, not to give up,” Barrett said. “And when I took the focus off me, and said who can I be for other people, it brought a lot of peace to me in my fight.”

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer — nearly 148 people each day or more than six people every hour. An estimated 137,260 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2010, and leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults.

Barrett has now become a leukemia survivor statistic, and she knows she is here for a reason, as she welcomes each day with a smile and continues to inspire others to find the strength they need to fight, until a cure can be found.

“The goal is a cure,” Barrett said. “That’s the mission.”

Learn more

Kids Bike for A Cure is at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 12 at 655 W. Morse Blvd. in Hannibal Square, Winter Park. Children ages 3-12 can participate. Younger children can also participate by riding their big wheels, tricycles, training bikes or scooters. For more information or to become a sponsor, visit www.theparkehouseacademy.com or call 407-647-3624.