SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island teen who has battled cancer for years celebrated her Sweet 16 Thursday.

As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reports, her community came together to give her the best birthday.

It was a day of beauty for Erika Gottlieb her friends at Cactus Salon & Day Spa in Smithtown. The services were a gift from the salon.

“I’ve been very happy and excited and surprised,” she told Hsu.

Gottlieb has been through a lot. She was an active 12-year-old when a rare bone cancer hit, keeping her in the hospital for 237 days straight. She had to have parts of her hip and pelvis removed and underwent 14 operations, which left her unable to walk.

When she finally returned home, hundreds of people rallied behind her.

“Erika was in the hospital for almost nine months. So to come home and to have so many people and her friends with her… It keeps Erika smiling and keeps our whole family together,” her mother, Cindy, said.

Gottlieb is now a leader in training for children’s cancer camp with the group Kids Need More. Melissa Firmes, the founder of the organization, is recovering from leukemia.

“Erika has helped me and shown me how to recover. She’s shown me how to have a good attitude,” she said.

Jess Rosenbloom, one of her friends from camp with brain cancer, came all the way from Canada for her Sweet 16.

“I don’t care if we fly, if we drive, if we walk, we’re going,” she said. “She just has the power to make everybody laugh, to make everybody smile.”

“Think positive, never give up, and you always people around you,” said Gottlieb.

While she will be getting lots of presents, she said the best gift is that she’s now cancer free.

She’s doing well but still needs to get scans every six months and will need to be monitored by doctors for the rest of her life.


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