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How Cancer Helped Pre-Teen Girl Achieve a Dream

  • Faiza Elmasry

Noa learned to sew from her grandmother.

Noa learned to sew from her grandmother.

Getting a diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing experience. That’s what Noa Sorrell realized over the past year.

“I was diagnosed in January this year with Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” the 11-year-old Texas girl said. “I was kind of scared, but the doctor said that it would be treatable, very treatable, even if it wasn’t a simple thing. So I wasn’t too worried because he said that, but I was a little worried.”

The treatment left Noa Sorrell with a lot of time on her hands.

“I was in chemo for three months,” she explained. “And I didn’t have anything to do. So I would have really bored, if I hadn’t started sewing and designing clothes.”


Noa learned how to sew from her grandmother, who passed away last year. She always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and the Make-a-Wish Foundation made it happen. The nonprofit group grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, and they arranged for Noa to show off her clothes during Los Angeles Fashion Week.

Noa's collection for Spring 2016.

Noa's collection for Spring 2016.

Using her late grandmother’s old “Singer” machine, Noa created a clothing line, a spring collection for preteen girls, inspired by flowers and bright colors.

“I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish my work on time,” Noa admitted. “But at the same time, I was very excited for the Fashion Week and I was working really hard because on top of trying to sew a collection of 10 pieces in a month-and-a-half, I also had school and many other things."

Determination and love

Noa's mother, Maralice Sorrell, says the idea of producing something during the time her daughter was receiving her chemotherapy was very empowering for her, adding that her determination and love for sewing helped her meet that goal. She recalled that, at times, Noa was so tired she had to wheel her in a shopping cart into the fabric store so she could pick material for her designs.

“She’s a very dedicated student,” Sorrell said. “She would do her homework and then sit at this sewing machine, sometimes four hours a day. Sometimes she would sit until 4:00 a.m. She said she wanted to have a website. So we bought her a domain and told her, you have to learn how to do it. So she would sew while she’s at home and when she’s in the hospital she would work on the website.”

Working, and still dreaming

Noa and her sister during the LA Fashion Week.

Noa and her sister during the LA Fashion Week.

Noa continues to design and sew clothes for her friends at school and her family.

“Her friends do a lot of sports and biking," Sorrell explained. “She made them reversible tank tops. For herself, she made a dress for the fashion show that matches her personality. She dressed her sister with a black dress that also matches her sister. She has the eye for creating things that match someone’s taste and personality and we would like very much help her grow that.”

Noa says her dream is to become a well-known fashion designer.

“I want to start selling my designs," she said. “I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but what I know I want to see people wearing my designs.”

Her mother also has a dream.

“I want to see her growing up. That’s my wish. I want to see her happy.”

Noa says she is happy. She has a new sewing machine and keeps busy, studying and creating her fall and winter collections.