Health Check: Cancer survivor wins Miss RI
Jessica Marfeo is 19 years old and a student at the University of Rhode Island and the new Miss Rhode Island.
She recently visited the Tomorrow Fund clinic at Hasbro Children's Hospital and gave girls there at the chance to try on her crown.
There's nothing quite like feeling like a princess, especially when you're not feeling so well.
And Marfeo knows all about that.
NBC 10 met her in 1999 when we did a story on her younger brother Michael, who lost his battle with brain cancer.
That's when she was introduced to Hasbro Children's Hospital and the Tomorrow Fund, an organization that helps children battling cancer and their families, both emotionally and financially.
"And because I was 4 years old, I was (at the clinic) every day with him. I was in the playroom and the nurses and doctors here helped me take his heartbeat, do the blood pressure. I learned a lot about the medical field and of course about cancer," Marfeo said.
Michael died within four months of his diagnosis.
"The year to the date Mikey passed away, I was diagnosed with neuroblastoma behind my left lung. I came in for a case of pneumonia and through a chest X-ray, they saw a tumor," Marfeo said.
But this time, there was a happy ending. Marfeo was considered cancer free by the time she was 13, and now she wears a crown that has special meaning.
"Our crown has four points to it and each part means scholarship, service, success, and style. So those four points are what I try and embody everyday as Jessica Marfeo and now Miss Rhode Island," she said.
Marfeo's service includes volunteering at Hasbro Children's Hospital on the weekends.
"I feel empathy for them because I know what they're going through and I know how it feels to be that little girl in the playroom going through treatments just after your surgery and wanting to go home," she said.
As Miss Rhode Island, she has a platform. However, it isn't pediatric cancer.
"It is BFF, Be Friends First. So it's promoting healthy relationship through education and mentoring students K through 12th-grade. I self-designed it and am proud to say it's in seven schools in the state of Rhode Island, so we talk about bullying, peer pressure and self-esteem," Marfeo said.
Marfeo said her Miss Rhode Island means she has enough scholarship money to completely pay for graduate school in the future. And she'll compete in Miss America in September.