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SunriseWalks
June 8, 2014
Henry Kaufman Campgrounds
75 Colonial Springs Road
Wheatley Heights, NY 11798

 

Cassidy, now 5, was born February 27, 2012, after a long, difficult, emergency delivery. That day was a milestone for my husband, Dan, and me, one that would change us forever and we would never forget. It was to be only the beginning of our concerns, but also the first of many times that we would learn how strong, resilient and determined Cassidy is.

On October 13, 2016, when Cassidy was in her second month at pre-school, I decided to take her and her two younger brothers, Russell and Daniel, to Adventureland. Like any other day, Cassidy seemed fine, her normal, sassy, Miss Independent self. The kids had a blast. After Cassidy was tucked in for the night, I heard her whining and went back into her room to check on her. I’m not sure what made me go back in, but I thank God every day that I did.

Cassidy’s belly hurt everywhere. It had two large protrusions which, to the touch, felt like hard baseballs. I took her to Good Samaritan Hospital, preparing myself for what I thought was the worst-case scenario, a hernia. Dr. Ross, our angel and a man we will never forget, took great care of Cassidy, even giving her his lucky unicorn which he told her would help her overcome anything. That unicorn remains in my bag to this day.

After many tests, Dr. Ross informed me - “Mrs. Mccarthy, your daughter has Wilms Tumor. We don’t know how severe it is, but it looks bad, as there are some modules on her lungs.”  We were instructed to take Cassidy directly to Winthrop hospital for surgery and treatment and were informed the next day that her tumors had metastasized to both lungs. She had stage four cancer. We hadn’t yet told Cassidy she had cancer.  Before heading into surgery she said “Mom, I think I have an apple in my belly. I ate one yesterday and I think I ate the seed and it must have grown in my belly.” We couldn’t help but laugh.

The surgery went well. Cassidy lost some blood and had what the surgeon described as one of the biggest tumors he had seen in a really long time, but, once again, she recovered amazingly well. What was most incredible and touching about that surgery was discovering the depth of Cassidy’s empathy and generosity. To comfort her while she was in the hospital, she had been given a guardian angel and a bottle of healing oil. Before leaving the hospital, Cassidy gave these to the mother of a very sick teenage girl whom Cassidy had befriended, and then turned to me and said “let’s go Mom, she needs these more than I do.”

Chemo and radiation started right after she came home. The chemo team was amazing and soon became like family to us. They told us she would lose her hair and have many trips to the ER, but she was going to be okay and have a fulfilling life. Well, they were right. For 9 months, we watched Cassidy become skin and bones, receive transfusions and I.V.’s of antibiotics and make multiple trips to the hospital. Throughout it all, Cassidy always had a smile on her face, and her brothers never left her side, especially Russell.

We had heard about Sunrise Day Camp many times throughout Cassidy’s treatments, but Cassidy was never well enough to go. Finally, toward the end of treatment, the doctors said she was ready and cleared her to be a camper for the summer of 2017.

Dan and I knew that Cassidy and Russell had been through so much together and that this camp, and the summer of carefree fun that it promised, was something they truly deserved. We could not have been more right. Sunrise changed Cassidy and Russell’s lives forever.  They loved every minute of camp and clearly thrived from the experience. Cassidy came out of her shell and started talking to people and making friends again. Russell had a blast and met a new friend every day. Each day, they came home from camp singing songs and fighting over who was going to be first to share their day with me. Sunrise became their home away from home.