NAVARRE — Melissa Joyner stares intently at her parents as they describe the rare Acute T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma she contracted as a 13-month-old.

Now a 10-year-old in the fifth grade at Holley Navarre Intermediate, she wants to learn her cancer survival story.

Every once in awhile Melissa pipes in and her dad, Adam Joyner, and mom, Moona Joyner, gently explain to her what happened. The rare cancer accounts for about 2 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Melissa describes the emotions that run through her as she listens to her parents: “Interesting. Emotional. Happiness that I’m alive.”

She and her family look forward to the Navarre Relay for Life from 6 p.m.-midnight Friday at Navarre High School.

“It’s nice to help prevent what I’ve gone through,” said Melissa, who pushed her family to join her in the Relay as a family project.

Relay for Life, which began in 1985, has become the largest annual not-for-profit fundraising event in the world. More than 5,200 communities in the United States and 20 countries do the cancer walk that benefits the American Cancer Society.

Melissa embodies a survivor. Besides cancer, she was born two months early and deaf. She was diagnosed at 6 months with auditory neuropathy. She gradually could hear again but still wears hearing aids.

From six months on, Adam and Moona knew their baby had a health issue.

“She had sweaty feet. She was a sweaty baby,” Moona said.

They finally received confirmation when Melissa reached her first birthday and could barely breathe. Their baby had pleural effusion, in which fluid filled up her chest cavity. Doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, drained the fluid and tested it. Melissa had Stage 3 lymphoblastic lymphoma, doctors told her parents on Sept. 11, 2009.

“It was hard dealing with it,” said Adam, a retired master sergeant in the Air Force. “There were so many lines — eight or 10 lines — on her.”

For the next two years Melissa underwent chemotherapy, some so toxic they could have killed her. Melissa developed a norovirus that causes diarrhea and vomiting. Adam and Moona put a new diaper, sometimes two, on Melissa about every hour.

Then she contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious nerve disorder. It turned baby Melissa into a quadriplegic.

Moona can joke about it now. “She was a floppy dolly,” she said.

Adam added that all families with children who suffer from cancer support each other.

“When that happened, everyone felt sorry for us,” Adam said. “That addition added up to being too much.”

Doctors told Melissa’s parents she would never walk. But she sat on a toy giraffe with wheels and learned to walk again.

Today, she plays soccer. She has a 2-year-old sister, Mia, who she squeezes tight in a hug. Melissa also plays piano and sings in her school’s choir. Her favorite color is sky blue/aqua, the color of her bedroom. Her favorite princess is Penelope from “Wreck it Ralph.” She likes to eat at Tijuana Flats and The Slippery Mermaid Sushi Bar. When she grows up she wants to be a TV news reporter.

After beating cancer, Melissa received a Make-A-Wish Foundation trip to Disney World in Orlando, where she met Disney princesses and got their autographs. She has a photo album she likes to pull out. Plus, her dad briefly flew an aircraft over the park, which normally is closed to air traffic.

In Sandringham, England, she talked to both Queen Elizabeth and Duchess Kate during a Christmas visit in 2011. Photos of their visit appeared in news media around the globe.

Adam and Moona finally let themselves cry after they were told Melissa was in remission in September 2011. They still get emotional talking about the struggle.

Melissa and her mother will walk Friday in the Navarre Relay for Life as part of Gold Together. They are team captains and will walk with their family.

“It is part of who she is and who we are,” Moona said.