Five-year-old Frankie Marazza was not just your average, run-of-the-mill miracle baby.
She was a double-miracle baby.
In 1994, Frankie's mother, Mikey Marazza of Christopher Creek, was 44. Her father, Frank, was 52. They had been married for 12 years and had finally accepted the fact that, for whatever reason, they were not able to conceive a child.
And then, on Sept. 5, 1995, along came Frankie, a.k.a. Miracle No. 1.
"Having a baby was something I always dreamed about but never thought would ever come true," Mikey Marazza now says. "It was the greatest thing that ever happened to Frank and me."
Six months later, Mikey noticed blood in her stool. Thinking it was a normal post-childbirth problem, she ignored it. But the bleeding didn't go away.
During her next physical examination -- which Mikey would not have undergone if she had not recently become a mother -- doctors found a fast-growing, pea-sized tumor on her rectum. A biopsy told the awful truth: it was cancerous.
"I can still remember that day," Mikey said. I guess everyone deals with horrible news in different ways. Frank, Frankie and I went shopping. I just pushed the baby buggy around the store like I was in some sort of daze. I don't know if I was trying to avoid thinking about the tumor or what. But after we finished shopping and went home, Frank and I both sat down and cried.
"I remember thinking, 'I can't die. I have this little baby that needs me. I have to be OK so I can watch her grow up.' And my husband kept saying, 'You don't smoke, you don't drink, you don't have any bad habits. Why is this happening to you?'"
Mikey knows the answer to that.
"There is no answer," she said. "Anyone can get colon or rectal cancer."
The first physician Mikey saw spent only 10 minutes with her before saying that she needed a "total colostomy" in addition to immediate chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Fortunately, she sought a second opinion. The new doctor, Mikey said, treated her wonderfully.
"He spent at least an hour with us. He told me he wanted me to live another 40 years and be able to watch my daughter grow up. He told me that I would not need chemo and radiation, but that I would have to have a total sigmoid colostomy -- immediately.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to have at least two different doctors' opinions when facing major surgery," Mikey said. "If I had remained with the first doctor I saw, I honestly feel I may not have made it through the surgery -- and if I had, I never would have recovered as fast as I did."
Mikey's recovery has gone so well, in fact, that she is now the captain of the 12-member Christopher Creek team that will participate in the upcoming Relay for Life to raise money for cancer education and research.
The event, which will take place on the Payson High School track, begins on Friday, June 2 at 6 p.m., and will continue through the following day. For the duration of the relay, at least one member of the Christopher Creek team will be running the track in what Mikey rightly terms "a race for life."
And she has first-hand knowledge of what's at stake.
Mikey was told by her doctors that, if the tumor had been detected any later than it had, she might have been dead within a month.
"If I had not had my baby, and not had the routine six-month checkup given to all new mothers, I would probably not be here," Mikey said of Miracle No. 2.
The miracle of life given, for once, by a child to its mother.