Ellie Szabados goes back to school

7-year-old cancer patient starts 1st grade

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of students and parents battle back-to-school nerves on the first day, but for the Szabados family those nerves were multiplied when their 7-year-old daughter went back to school for the first time Monday since being diagnosed with brain cancer. 

"As soon as I got out of the classroom, the tears were going down my face, and the principal was really sweet about it and said you can come check on her anytime," said Ellie's mom, Stephanie Szabados.

Channel 4 has been following Ellie Szabados story since she was 5-years-old and undergoing treatment for her cancer.  This year, Ellie's doctors encouraged her parents to send her back to Normandy Village Elementary School so that she could start the first grade. 

Channel 4 cameras has followed Ellie on her long road to recovery. The journey has been full of ups and downs, surgeries and painful chemotherapy treatments.

The 7-year-old conquered her first day of school with the spunk, personality and resilience Ellie's shown us since Channel 4 cameras started covering her story. 

"Did you make any friends?" asked Channel 4's Adrienne Moore. 

"Yes! A lot!" said Ellie. "They have all been nice and there's a whole bunch."

Ellie said going back to school made her feel like a normal kid again, but there are some things that she still can't be part of, like recess and eating lunch in the cafeteria. 

Ellie's tumors have been shrinking, but as she continues to get healthy, her immune system is still concerns doctors.

"No recess, no gym, no cafeteria, she's eating in the office and she wears a mask for the entire day. Just for now to see how she does," said Szabados. 

Ellie was eager to show Channel 4 all her back to school gear Monday afternoon. 

"And here's my Tinkerbelle lunchbox," said Ellie. "It's Tinkerbelle and all of her friends and her sister."

With day two just around the corner, Ellie's excited and mom says school could be just what Ellie needs.

"I know that the tumors are still there, she's still fighting. I know that we still have a long battle ahead of us," said Szabados. "But we're doing it, and I'm happy that she's happy."