PITTSBURGH - Wendy Miller speaks quietly on the phone from just outside her daughter's room on the hematology and oncology floor at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, where the Osterburg family has been camped out on and off for about four months.
''Our whole world was rocked in October,'' she says.
That's when Miller and her husband, Don, learned their 10-year-old daughter, Heather, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma after tumors were found in her second rib and tissue on her lung. The couple also has an 11-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu sits with Heather Miller during one of his recent visits to see her at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Heather is battling a bone and tissue cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Ewing's Sarcoma is a cancer of bone and soft tissue.
More than their unwavering faith and constant support system, the one thing that seems to help tomboy Heather through the rounds of radiation, chemotherapy, chest tubes and surgery comes in the form of a long-haired safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Troy Polamalu, who frequently visits Children's Hospital in his down time, met Heather when she was in the hospital for her second round of chemotherapy.
A closer look
A kid-friendly Web site has been set up by Heather Miller's family to give updates on her condition as well as photographs of her journey at www.commercial webbing.com/heather .html.
Wendy Miller said Polamalu refuses to talk about his football prowess. Instead, he plays "Rock Band" for hours at a time with the Chestnut Ridge fifth-grader and sends her text messages to let her know he's thinking about her.
''He could be so self-absorbed, but he's not,'' she said. ''He is all about Heather, talking about how strong she is.''
On their first meeting, the two exchanged bracelets: a Greek Orthodox yarn bracelet made up of 43 knots with 7 crosses each from him and a green rubber bracelet from Heather with her motto on it - F.R.O.G., or Fully Rely on God.
On Jan. 26, as Polamalu geared up for the Super Bowl in Florida, Heather was facing surgery. Polamalu sent her a text message a couple of days before and then again twice the day of her surgery - his Media Day in Florida.
One message read, ''I am so proud of you. You're so tough.'' Another simply said, ''I miss you.''
''It meant the world to me that I could see her smile before surgery,'' her mother said.
The day after Pittsburgh's Super Bowl victory came another message: ''How about that, Heather? I hope that makes you happy.''
Before a Super Bowl practice in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, Polamalu called Heather ''awesome.''
''Heather is very special,'' he said. ''She, I can definitely say, is my No. 1 fan, without a doubt, since I first met her.''
Polamalu is more than a football player to the Miller family.
''When we have a down moment, it never fails that he's there for us. He is a true angel for us,'' she says.
Heather was planning an extended visit back home this week when she leaves the hospital Wednesday, but the results of recent tests mean she likely will return to the hospital Monday to begin six weeks of radiation five days a week and then 12 weeks of chemotherapy.
''There is no remission with this type of cancer,'' Wendy Miller said. ''Instead, there's what's called a five-year plan. If there's no reoccurrence in five years after visits and scans, she'll be labeled 'disease-free.' It's definitely a marathon, not a sprint.''
Mirror Staff Writer Wendy McCardle is at 946-7520.