Young cancer survivor ready to race

WESTON, FL (WTVJ/NBC) - An 11-year-old Florida girl who has been cancer-free for just five months is taking part in a charity race to raise money to fight a rare form of cancer.

This time last year, Rachel Stief of Weston, FL, was undergoing treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare malignant tumor inside her face. She endured wearing a mask on her face during daily radiation treatments and chemotherapy, which she finished in April.

"I just feel a lot stronger than I ever did and a lot braver than I have ever been," she said.

Her mother, Jodie Stief, says it's been five months that Rachel's been cancer-free. Rachel now just sees her doctors for monthly follow ups.

"Every month, she looks brighter. She's glowing. She's happy," Jodie said.

It has been an eventful year for the small survivor. In her room, Rachel displays mementos from a special prom for survivors that she attended in May.

In August, she and her family went to Hawaii courtesy of the Make-Wish Foundation.

"The zip lining was the best part of the trip," Rachel said. "That was amazing just jumping off and going 'voom.' That was so much fun. And spending time with my family, that was a lot of fun too."

She's doing more than having fun.

After being a patient at Holtz Children's Hospital, she started a foundation called Rachel's Wish ,"helping other kids that were at that hospital too, making their rooms and everything better and have them feel, not at home, but comfortable."

Rachel and her dad are on the cover of this year's brochure for the 4th Annual 5k Run/Walk for a Sarcoma Cure. Sarcoma is a rare cancer in adults, but makes up 15 percent of childhood cancers. It grows in connective tissue like muscle, bone and fat.

After being home schooled for 6th grade, she's back at Falcon Cove Middle, appreciating the routine.

"Get up the same time, go to school, come home hang out with friends. It's good. I like going back to school," Rachel said, who turns 13 in January. "It's just hard to look back, and it went by very fast, which is a good thing."

Copyright 2011 WTVJ via NBC. All rights reserved.