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Schools all over Central Iowa are celebrating homecoming with parades, football games and dances.  That includes Southeast Polk, where the Rhythamettes take the field for every home game.  But the members of the dance team are more interested in a battle happening off the gridiron.  They’re celebrating a day they thought they might never see.  It’s part of teammate Kelsey Michelsen’s comeback.

Just a few months ago she was dancing with her friends, lighting up the stage with her smile.  “She was always outgoing, “her parents say with big smiles, “She’s funny and the life of the party.  She never knew a stranger and always had a smile on her face.”

Less than two years ago Kelsey was on a mission trip teaching others to dance.  No one dreamed that her increasing headaches signaled a serious problem.   But during Father’s Day weekend, doctors diagnosed the 14 –year-old with an inoperable brain tumor.  “We were just in shock,” says Tammy Michelsen with tears filling her eyes, “There’s just disbelief and grief and wondering how could this be happening?”  Kelsey’s dad Steve was devastated. “She’s so healthy and full of life and in a split second it was gone.  It was gone.”  A vibrant young lady was replaced by a little girl clinging to life at mayo clinic.  Doctors told the family they didn’t think Kelsey would make it through the weekend.  “I remember getting in her face saying Kelsey, you gotta dig deep and pull through this,” says Tammy, “I know you can do this, God is with you and you can do this.”

While the Michelsens were trying to come to grips with what was happening to their daughter, so were her team mates.  “I couldn’t even picture it,” remembers Whitney Blakemore, “I mean I picture Kelsey as a normal girl, I couldn’t picture her having something wrong with her!”  The girls decided they had to do something.  “Right away one of my girls said she thought it would be neat if they made t-shirts,” says head coach Marianne Mayo, “The front says “Keep Dancing” and the back says “Team Kelsey”.”

The first round brought in about five hundred dollars.  Soon the entire Southeast Polk community started buying shirts.  “You know, family – you expect them to be there,” says Steve, “But 14 year old girls?!?!  Groups of kids came to see her at Mayo… four and five times!!!”

Equally amazing, is that Kelsey is here.  Time and time again over the past three months she’s shocked her doctors.  “I kept telling them  – Kelsey is going to be your miracle and finally they said, I think you’re right,” says Tammy with a grin.  Having bedside seats to that miracle, has changed Tammy and Steve.  “Cherish every moment you have with your kids.  You don’t know when it could be taken away from you.”

Kelsey’s comeback is doing something to the people here at home, too.   “It has caused a huge change in my team,” says Marianne, “the girls are closer. They’re so close and so caring.”  Whitney says she doesn’t take things for granted any more. “It’s crazy that we get to be with her when for a while we thought we’d never get to dance with her again and now she’s at practices.”

That’s where Kelsey is passing on what she’s learned.  “To have hope… to know that they can do things.”  She knows she’s proving a lot of people wrong and says it feels pretty good.  Kelsey’s comeback is changing just about everything.  “You realize it’s not a big deal if they don’t clean their room, or pick up their clothes,” says Steve, “to see her dance again … that is a big deal.”

You can help the Michelsen family with medical expenses on Saturday, October 15th.  There is a kids costume party at the Sunnybrook Mobile home shelter house at 5975 Berwick Drive from 1-3pm.  That night there’s a party for grownups at the Hilltop Restaurant & Lounge at 2820 Hubbell Avenue from 7pm – midnight.

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