For an hour on Wednesday, 7-year-old Rue Andeer was as famous as champion golfer Phil Mickelson.
Rue and Mickelson held a joint 9 a.m. press conference and then signed autographs for eager young fans inside the Kids Zone presented by Nemours Children’s Health System.
Rue is a cancer survivor and Nemours ambassador. And Mickelson is a family friend who supported her and her family through her battle with leukemia that began when she was 2-years old.
The reunion between Mickelson and Rue began with a short video featuring photographs and film clips of the two together when the famous golfer visited the little girl in the hospital.
Sitting side by side onstage, they then took turns speaking during a talk moderated by Billy Kratzert, a friend of Rue’s family and also of Mickelson’s.
Rue’s primary oncologist from Nemours, Dr. Cindy Gauger and Dr. Howard Katzenstein, head of the division of oncology at Nemours, also attended.
“I don’t think there is a more difficult thing to go through then to see your child struggle with their health,” Mickelson said during the talk. Turning to smile at Rue, he said, “I think there is a special purpose in life for this girl. I don’t know what it is, but part of the joy for me is finding out.”
Mickelson explained that he could relate to what Rue’s family went through, as he also experienced cancer in his family. And that he appreciated the support they received from people’s thoughts and prayers.
“When our family went through tough times, you could actually feel that positive energy,” he said. “It helps you get through it.”
He praised Rue for caring about other people during her illness and for her courage during 26 months of difficult treatments.
“We are really happy you are doing well,” he told her. “What was the hardest part?” he asked.
“The needles,” she said.
“Yet you did it,” he said. “A lot of times, even though you didn’t like it. Good job.”