ATLANTA - At 24, Amelia Ballard is where she's always wanted to be.
"I'm a new graduate nurse,” Ballard says. “I'm about 6 weeks in. I've loved every minute of it."
And the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston emergency department nurse knows what her patients and their parents are feeling, because she's been there.
"I was 17 months old, and I spiked a 104 F fever," Ballard says. “And I was diagnosed with leukemia, ALL."
The Ballards, who are from Macon, Ga, brought Amelia to the AFLAC Cancer at Children’s for treatment. Amelia beat leukemia. But, then, at 3, relapsed.
"So they told my mom and dad the treatment was going to be rigorous this time, more intense,” she says. “I had chem regimens and total body and cranial radiation, as well as I had to have a bone marrow transplant."
For the next year, Amelia and her family struggled.
"A lot of prayer,” Ballard says. “We're born again Christians. So she relied on her faith a lot, her and my dad. My brother ended up being a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. And we took it second by second, moment by moment, day by day."
But, in almost every picture from that time, Amelia is smiling. Her mom only photographed the happy moments, Then, she’d show them to Amelia when things got harder.
Amelia was so young, she only has a few memories of that period in her life.
"I remember some of the scans, some of the treatment,” she says. “But it's mostly like my birthday party that I had here. It was a ‘Lion King’ theme. I remember all my family and friends coming to the hospital.
I remember my child life specialists. Her name was Lucy and she would always bring me stickers, and dolls."
At 4, during a psychological evaluation, Amelia first realized she belonged here at Children's.
"One of the questions they asked me was, 'If little boys grow up to be men, what do little girls grow up to be?' And I said, 'Doctors!" Because all my doctors were female and all my nurses were female,” she says. “They had such a strong impact on me."
Amelia studied nursing at Georgia Southern University. This spring Children's Healthcare of Atlanta called, inviting her to join their team.
"I think I started crying,” Ballard says. “I get emotional about stuff like that. So, I probably cried. I said a little prayer of thanks."
Because the little girl who beat cancer - twice - feels like she's come home.
"It's a miracle, I can't believe it,” she says. “An amazing feeling."