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'I won't give up, I won't give in' | 3-year-old 'levels up,' inspires others in her cancer battle

A 3-year-old girl battling cancer keeps shining and dancing - even as times get hard.
Mickeon English and her 3-year-old daughter, Aubrey. Aubrey is battling childhood cancer and inspiring others with her positivity.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. – When 3-year-old Aubrey Kate English hears Ciara’s voice, she’s just like any other little girl – copying the dance moves of her favorite singer and swaying to the beat of “Level Up.”

It’s her way of telling childhood cancer she’s not giving up.


Just so you know, I won’t give up. I won’t give in. You won’t take my spirit. You won’t take my spunk. I have endless faith. Endless hope. And even more fierceness. You may be in my life. But you don’t have my life.

LEVEL UP!! @ciara”

The Facebook post was shared by Aubrey’s mom, Mikeon English, who has stood by her daughter’s side at every doctor’s appointment, surgery -- and now -- chemotherapy treatment.

Aubrey has hepatoblastoma – a very rare cancerous tumor that starts in the liver that affects children up to 3 years of age.

She was diagnosed in April – less than a month from her third birthday. Aubrey underwent surgery to remove the growing tumor and 50 percent of her liver less than a week before turning 3.

Through it all, Mikeon said her little girl continues to do what she loves – dance, sing and do crafts.

“Aubrey has been very strong. Her spirit has really gotten us through, because she has remained so strong,” Mikeon said. “We get our strength from her.”

Mikeon is no stranger to hospitals, either. She is a nurse in the neurosurgery unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital near Sandy Springs – the same hospital where Aubrey is receiving cancer treatment.

“I was not a cancer mom the day before she was diagnosed. Let that sink in,” Mikeon shared in a post on her Facebook page. “I cared for other people’s children with cancer. I never thought I would be caring for my own child with cancer.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – and, this year, Mikeon is hoping that Aubrey’s fearlessness and positivity will inspire other families living with childhood cancer and motivate people to support cancer research.

“Our family is affected by the true meaning of this month … awareness. My baby has been through so much and our journey still continues. My beautiful 3-year-old daughter spent her third birthday in the PICU in a recliner chair, attached to many lines and monitors. With an epidural in her back to help with pain,” Mikeon wrote. “All of this was because of CANCER.”

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Mikeon launched a fundraising page for Cure Childhood Cancer in Aubrey’s honor. Their goal was to raise $1,000 and friends and family have raised over $1,600 so far. The family is determined to keep the donations coming in, hosting a benefit at Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Newnan where they raffled off t-shirts depicting Aubrey as Rosie the Riveter, showing her muscle with the hashtag #PrincessStrong.

T-shirts supporting Aubrey Kate English's fight against childhood cancer.Credit: Mikeon English

Aubrey’s road has not been easy - even from the start. She was born premature at 26 weeks, weighing only 1 pound, 10 ounces.

Mikeon said the family first saw something was wrong when they noticed the little girl was urinating a lot – once every 10 minutes.

“We thought it was a urinary tract infection, something very simple. But the pediatrician felt something in her belly that he never felt before – and he has been her pediatrician since she came home from the NICU,” Mikeon said.

Throughout the stressful appointments and visits, Mikeon said Ciara has been a constant presence, with Aubrey asking her to play “Level Up” several times a day. Mikeon captured the video of her dance moves to show their friends and family how well she is coping.

“We were looking at videos one day and she saw the ‘Level Up’ video, and she immediately got up and started dancing, started mimicking the moves she was making … and that song has been kind of her go-to every day, several times a day,” Mikeon said. “She moves her hands, she moves her body and it’s just so exciting to see.”

Aubrey is the youngest of four children in the English family, and Mikeon said her children have stepped up to help in their own, unique ways.

“Our 16-year-old has stepped up to the plate with household responsibilities and doing chores around the house. Our 11-year-old has a lot of personality – she makes us laugh and keeps us going. Our 5-year-old loves to draw pictures and show them to her sister,” Mikeon said. “We have some really great kids.”

Mickeon English and her 3-year-old daughter, Aubrey. Aubrey is battling childhood cancer and inspiring others with her positivity.

As a nurse, Mikeon knows the struggle families face with finishing everyday tasks – something she admits is difficult now that she is a cancer mom. She said the thing that has pulled the family through is their support network of friends and loved ones.

“If you have people that are asking, ‘Can I do anything for you,’ definitely speak up – because there will be days where you need to step away, days where you’re not able to eat, where you’re not even able to shower,” Mikeon said, holding back tears. “You are going to need those people to come sit with your child - bring you meals. I know people get to the point where they don’t want to ask for help, but you need help. Let them help you. You will get burned out, you will get tired. Your support will help you through the process.”

Aubrey has completed 14 out of her 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment and goes back to the hospital on Monday to begin the next round.

Mikeon said the family is planning a “huge celebration” to celebrate the milestone once she’s feeling better.

“This journey is so hard, but we are going to do something once she’s feeling better and tell our support system in some kind of way,” Mikeon said.

And, of course, Ciara is always invited.

You can join Aubrey’s support network by donating to her Cure Childhood Cancer fundraising page. The English family also has a GoFundMe page to support them as they continue their road to recovery.

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