NEW YORK (CBS) ― A young Broadway star is in a big battle with cancer, and she’s hoping her story will inspire more people to join the fight.
Shannon Tavarez played “Young Nala” in “The Lion King” until leukemia hit three months ago. She was released from the hospital Tuesday night, and the feisty 11-year-old used her bed as a stage to show off her lion cub moves.
“Through this battle I’m going through, I feel fierce and strong,” Shannon said. “I still stay happy, I still sing, I still dance when I’m hooked up to the pole, the IV.”
She says she’s just like the character she plays – a fighter.
“She’s so strong and resilient, and I’m so proud of her,” mother Odiney Brown said.
Shannon is now appearing in public service announcements, encouraging people to become bone marrow donors.
Finding a match is Shannon’s best chance of survival, and all it takes to get tested is a quick cheek swab. There’s a huge need for people of color to join the registry for cancer patients throughout the world.
“Of course we want Shannon to find a match, but I think there’s something bigger here,” Brown said. “We can just get more people of color – African American, Asians, Latinos, and people of mixed race – to come out and donate.”
“Being a donor, you’re so afraid – you don’t want anybody to hurt me, or doctors to come do anything to me,” Shannon said. “[But] you’re actually saving a life.”
While Shannon still has a long road ahead, including another round of chemo, and hopefully a bone marrow transplant, but her smile is as bright as ever.
“This is just an obstacle, a curveball that God threw, but I’m going to catch it and get past it,” Shannon said.
Shannon says that once she wins this battle, she’s going to get back up on stage.
The first of several donor drives for Shannon is scheduled for Sunday, July 18.
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