Chrissy Turner‘s favorite color is now pink instead of blue, and she makes sure to add a little extra flourish whenever she writes her name on homework assignments or signs “thank you” notes to well-wishers. Above her name, she now always draws a tiny pink ribbon signifying the importance of funding research for breast cancer.
The youngest known person to ever be diagnosed with the disease at age 8 last year, Chrissy, now 9 and in remission, is normally shy and quiet, but is preparing to speak at an October event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “because it’s important to be aware of your body no matter what age you are,” she tells PEOPLE. “If you ever find a lump, don’t wait. You should go to a doctor have it looked at.”
On Oct. 7, the Centerville, Utah, girl will be one of the keynote speakers at [LINK” http://www.thepinkfrogfoundation.org “The Pink Frog Foundation’s”] fifth annual gala in Atlanta honoring breast cancer survivors.
“She’s nervous, but it’s important to her, and I’ll be standing right beside her the whole time,” Chrissy’s mother, Annette Turner, 44, a personal trainer and cervical cancer survivor, tells PEOPLE. “After the challenges she’s faced at such a young age, she knows there is nothing she can’t do.”
One year ago, Chrissy was putting on her pajamas on a Sunday night when she noticed a hard lump under her right nipple that was painful to touch. “Mama,” she asked Annette, “what’s this?”
Because Chrissy’s dad, Troy Turner, had gone through treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, Annette ignored the doctor’s recommendation to put her daughter on antibiotics and insisted that she get an ultrasound. She was shocked to learn that Chrissy had secretory breast carcinoma, a rare type of cancer afflicting one person in a million.
Bravely telling her parents that she would “do whatever it takes to get better,” Chrissy underwent a mastectomy last December, and now has a breast scan every three months.
“So far, she’s doing really well,” says Annette, “other than having a few emotional days. She’s started developing a little bit on her left side, so at some point she’ll need reconstructive surgery, probably when she’s 11 or 12. But Chrissy is happy and always tries to see the silver lining: She’s healthy and back playing and enjoying school and her friends.”
Chrissy, who shares a room with her older sister, Brianna, 16, enjoys making up dragon games at recess, painting her fingernails pink and purple and taking her teddy bear, Andy, on scooter rides through her neighborhood.
“Life is good and far too short,” she tells PEOPLE. “I love spending time with my family and there is nothing more important to me, especially now.”
“We’re so proud of how Chrissy handled her news about having breast cancer and the strength she showed through that and all that she had to go through,” says Troy Turner, 44, who is still in remission from his cancer and works as an equipment specialist at Hill Air Force Base.
“A lot of people have seen that strength and have drawn on it,” he tells PEOPLE. “For her young age, Chrissy has an incredible willingness to bring about more awareness and hope to others.”