For 16 years, Cecilia Ristau has longed for nothing more than being like everyone else.
It's been an elusive wish for the Douglas High School junior.
Since she was a baby, Cecilia has adapted to medical conditions that would have frustrated many adults.
When she was 11 months old, Cecilia was diagnosed with diabetes. As a little girl, she developed rheumatoid arthritis and multiple autoimmune diseases which put most kids' favorite foods out of reach.
She returned to school Tuesday after two months of treatment for a foot infection which led to the removal of the little toe on her left foot and the long bone to the ankle.
Cecilia underwent five surgeries and numerous infections before she was cleared to return to school.
"It was gross," she said of the infection. "I was at home one day and took the gauze off. All the skin came off and I was looking at my bone."
She has progressed from a wheelchair to crutches, and her classmates are giving her a wide berth as she makes her way down the hall.
"When I was in the wheelchair, it was like 'wow,'" she said. "People are making room for me in the halls, but every once in awhile, a door hits me."
The surgery meant Cecilia must giving up playing soccer, a sport she has loved since age 5.
"I'm out for the rest of my life," she said. "I don't want to put my foot in jeopardy, and I'm not very good at balance."
She has been promoted to assistant coach for the girls under-17 Elements team.
Her coach, Fritz Schweigert, called Cecilia an inspiration.
"In three seasons with us, she has scored over 40 goals and had over 30 assists," he said. "We have so many wonderful stories related to her personal strength and the struggles she has overcome to perform at the level she achieved."
Friends of Cecilia's are hosting an ice cream social and bake sale from 2-4 p.m. Feb. 24 at St. Gall Pastoral Center to help with expenses.
She said she doesn't know everything about the event, but she helped with the menu. Ice cream is one of her favorites.
"There will be tubs and tubs of it," she said.
Model Dairy donated the ice cream, and organizers have gathered dozens of other items.
For "Star Wars" fans, actress Michonne Bourriague sent autographed pictures and a Star Wars game. She played Aurra Sing, the female bounty hunter in "Episode 1: The Phantom Menace."
Like many kids her age, Cecilia has her driver's license and a car, and she is thinking about college.
She said sometimes she is burdened by her health issues, but tries not to dwell on the negatives.
"It's just a toe," she said. "Being negative a lot of the time doesn't really pay off."
Cecilia is a little uncomfortable with the attention.
"I wish people would know me as a normal person," she said. "Everyone wants to be so different. I just want to be the same as them."
Friends of Cecilia Ristau and her family are hosting an ice cream social and bake sale 2-4 p.m. Feb. 24 at St. Gall Pastoral Center, 1343 Centerville Lane, Gardnerville. Admission is by donation and raffle tickets will be sold. Donations may be made at any Bank of America, account No. 501003940844.
The following businesses have made donations to the ice cream social for Cecilia Ristau:
Carson Valley Inn, Carson Valley Golf Course, A Wildflower, Kid Pix, Trader Joe's, Nyona's Studio 395, Wildhorse Bar & Grill, Manger Christian Book Store, Video Library, Ironwood Theater, Ham Dogs, Sweetie Pies, Studio Vogue, Carson Valley Beauty Supply, Shear Heaven, Staples, Russell's Mercantile, ASJ Small Engines, Beachcomber, J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room. To donate, contact Debbie Hergenrader, 783-8840, or Annette Kangas, 265-1831.