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Hundreds welcome 3rd-grader back to school after fight with cancer

Bridget Kelley, 8, was just hoping for a return to normalcy on her first day back in elementary school after a 15-month absence for cancer treatments and a stem cell transplant.
Her classmates and their parents made sure the third-grader's return on Jan. 2 was anything but normal, thanks to a special greeting the Kelley family will never forget.
Bridget Kelley, 8, got a welcome back to school she will never forget after missing 15 months while being treated for cancer.
As Bridget walked to Merrymount Elementary School in Quincy, Massachusetts, she was met by hundreds of students, parents, teachers and police officers holding colorful signs welcoming her back to school.
"It was almost overwhelming,'' Bridget's mother, Megan Kelley, "She felt so special and so welcomed after such a long and hard road."
More than 200 signs were passed out for students, parents and teachers to hold that welcomed Bridget back.
"Her classmates wanted to let her know, 'You were out for 15 months, but we absolutely did not forget about you,'' Kristin Healy, a school parent who helped organize the gathering.
They stood out in 4-degree weather to make sure Bridget knew how excited they were for her return.
"There were parents crying,'' Healy said. "It was amazing."
The heartwarming scene, which included officers from the town, county and state police, had Kelley, 40, and her husband, Dan, 42, almost worried that it would be too much for Bridget.
Members of the local and state police as well as the sheriff's office joined in the celebration of Bridget's return.
"When we saw all the people we thought she could be overwhelmed and embarrassed,'' Kelley said. "But she raised her arms like 'Victory!' and she soaked it in. She totally went with it, and that made it that much more exciting."
Bridget raised her arms in triumph and joined in the fun as everyone cheered her return to school.
Bridget was just beginning the second grade when she was diagnosed in September 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. She spent 88 days in the Boston Children's hospital undergoing chemotherapy and surgeries.
Her condition required a stem cell transplant in March when she didn't go into remission right away, her mother said.
Bridget's initial diagnosis came after she went to get a swollen tonsil removed, and an MRI revealed it was something much worse.
Bridget underwent chemotherapy for leukemia and then a stem cell transplant that prevented her from having contact with friends and family for health reasons.
"We were completely blindsided,'' Kelley said. "We just thought she was getting her tonsil out."
Bridget's 3-year-old sister, Shannon, was the donor for her stem cell transplant. She could only have limited contact with people following the surgery because she was on medication suppressing her immune system.
Bridget had her own bedroom, a special diet and limited contact with friends that had to take place outside the house.
Bridget was all smiles when getting ready for her first day back at school.
"She had to live in isolation,'' Kelley said. "We couldn't have anybody in the house. She understood that the cancer was serious, but it was almost more devastating that she wasn't able to go to school or soccer or dance or birthday parties."
While Bridget was out of school, families in the community arranged to regularly bring meals to the Kelleys and raised money for the family and cancer research. Bridget was able to get tutoring during her time in the hospital so she could graduate to third grade and remain with her classmates.

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