SHOALS — As the announcer said Ariel Hert’s name, her friends and family cheered and began to make their way to the stage where the 17-year-old Shoals High School senior stood smiling, waiting to have her crown placed on her head and her Miss Martin County sash to be placed over her shoulders.
Friends wanted their pictures taken with her and her mother waited patiently to give her a hug.
The month of preparation Ariel had gone through for the pageant had paid off. She had come a long way from that day at the doctor’s office in 1999.
When Ariel was four years old she began running a fever. Doctors put her on three rounds of different antibiotics before sending her to a pediatrician in Jasper. A lump was found in her chest and Ariel was soon diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
“As a parent, you just can’t believe it,” said Retha Hert, Ariel’s mother. “Because, when you think of cancer you think it’s a death diagnosis. That’s all I could think of, was losing my only child.”
Ariel began treatments that would end up lasting a year. She underwent chemotherapy, blood transfusions, radiation and a surgery to remove sections of three of her ribs.
“I don’t really remember it too much,” said Ariel.
“I remember some of the stuff I took made my legs cramp a lot. And I’d get sick to my stomach because of the chemo.”
Now, looking back at her experience, Ariel wants to use her new position within the community to speak out for cancer awareness. Ariel and her mother have been involved with Relay for Life in the past, but now, Ariel plans on using her queen status to help entertain children at Riley’s Hospital, where she received her treatment.