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THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata
THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Zoë Bonowitz, 14, decided to start wearing a scarf early this September. It was not because she was too cold or for a fashion statement but for a reason only revealed when she takes the scarf off.

It covers up an immense scar where doctors removed part of her thyroid and the cancerous tumor growing on it — Zoë’s third cancer surgery.

Zoë began wearing a scarf to cover the scar, but also manages to wear a smile despite her medical travails.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” she said. “That’s life. You just have to keep things positive.”

To show their support, her family all started wearing scarves. But her aunt, Patricia Molina, went one step further.

“I decided to take a picture with a scarf on to show my support for Zoë and when my friend Sal Pasquetti saw it, he thought it would be a good idea to ask friends to take pictures with scarves on to show their support,” Patricia Molina, Bonowitz’s aunt, said. “So, I started a Facebook page and the support took off.”

The Facebook page, Scarves for Zoë, has become a worldwide hit, with more than 600 followers and oodles of pictures of people from all over the world sporting scarves to support Zoë.

Just seeing the pictures of strangers supporting her helps to give Zoë strength.

“The fact that people take time out of their day to support me is amazing,” Zoë said. “I’m glad that people care. It helps, it honestly helps.”

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When Zoë was 3, she was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. She spent nearly a year in and out of the hospital before doctors removed the kidney along with the eight-pound tumor that sat on it.

But it wasn’t over then.

When she was 8, Zoë was told she had cancer in the other kidney. Doctors soon after removed a quarter of that organ.

Now at 14, functioning with only three-fourths of a kidney, she is fighting her thyroid cancer.

“Nobody likes being told they have cancer,” Zoë  said. “But I’m fine. What happens, happens, you just have to fight through it.”

And she has.

With the successful removal of the thyroid, Zoë is waiting to have radioactive iodine therapy. She will stay in isolation for a week while on the medication and when it’s over, doctors will be able to tell if they fully removed the cancer.

But as she fights, Zoë is pursuing her dream of becoming a professional storyboard artist.

She currently attends the Academy for Careers in Television and Film, and draws comics and writes her own stories about the drawings in her spare time. It is something that she has done for as long as she can remember and said it helps her to keep calm throughout her situation.

The overwhelming support that she has received from the Facebook page is helping her through her fight, but the positive outlook she has on life has been what has kept her going.

She said it’s a lesson everyone should learn.

“You can’t worry about the hardships life throws at you,” Zoë said. “I’ve been through this already. I mean, what’s the big deal?  It’s just cancer.”

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