Zoe Hall doesn't have time to watch the birds anymore.

"It's kinda tough. There's all this homework!" said the 11-year-old Washington girl.

Zoe is feeling busier partly because she's in middle school now and the workload's bigger. There's even homework in PE -- reports on the history of volleyball and football.

Just being in school at all is a big change.

When Zoe was 8, doctors discovered that she had leukemia, a kind of cancer that attacks the blood cells. It's a serious illness that's under control now, but the treatment for it, called chemotherapy, often left Zoe tired and head-achy.

She went to school when possible, but there were long stretches when she couldn't, so a teacher from D.C. public schools came to her home. When we interviewed Zoe last spring, she was still doing her schoolwork at the kitchen table, where she had a good view of the backyard bird feeder.

Now, Zoe is finished with her treatment and showing up regularly for her classes at Hardy Middle School.

"I really like school; I like being back," Zoe said. She got to portray a fairy in her school's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; she has "the coolest teacher for math"; and she's got a group of friends from her old elementary school, and at lunch "we talk and play around together."

She has had a few lingering health problems. The chemotherapy not only knocked out the cancer, it knocked out her body's ability to fight off colds.

But mostly, things are going well for Zoe. And even though she gets out and about to school these days, she still likes to have quiet times by herself. She may not be doing her homework in front of the bird-watching window anymore since she's found another cozy place.

"I like to do stuff in my closet sometimes," she said. "I've got it outfitted with pillows and paperbacks."

-- Fern Shen



To . . .

Catching Up

With the

People We Met

Last Year

Zoe Hall studied with home tutor Jacquelyn Benton before going back to school full-time.