In 2016, I heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – “your child has cancer.”
Sophia was diagnosed with Cancer at the age of two and a half. 2016 was the year that breaks down our life into before and after. The year when everything about us changed and we had to learn our new “normal”…much like everyone has experience over the past year.
Sophia was a healthy beautiful child up until January 2016. She had no medical issues, and the only time we had to go to the doctor was for her well visits. On January 1, 2016 she woke up with what seemed to be a cold, but then she started complaining of leg pain, which then moved to her other leg, and then her arm. It took us four long months and multiple visits to different specialists, urgent cares, and emergency rooms to be diagnosed.
We knew that Sophia was not well, but nothing could have prepared us to hear that our child has cancer. This is the moment when you lose ability to think and rationalize, when you feel so crushed that life doesn’t seem worth living. The only thing that kept running through my head was that we were losing our beautiful child. A week of testing landed us at the diagnosis that none of us ever heard before – NEUROBLASTOMA, a rare childhood cancer that occurs in 1 out of 500,000… our beautiful girl was that One.
Sophia beat Cancer, but this chapter of our lives will never be forgotten. It made us stronger, it taught us about what really matters in life, and to live every day that we are given to the fullest. Every time I look at Sophia, I see strength and power. This little person fought so hard, and she did what seems impossible. Our little hero is the proof that cancer can be defeated.
As horrible as this whole experience has been, there are certain positives that came with it. We met so many amazing and caring people during our journey. Everyone involved in Sophia’s treatment became our new family. I will never be able to express enough gratitude to all selfless nurses, volunteers and especially our oncologist, Dr Gardner, who was there for us any time of the day and night, whenever we needed her. And then, while being in the clinic one day, we saw a flyer from Sunrise Day Camp. The volunteer told me all about the camp and who to contact. Miraculously, Sunrise Day Camp was located 5 minutes away from our new house in Rockland County, NY.
Sophia started going to camp in 2017. Sunrise became her favorite place on earth. She was making new friends, introduced to so many activities and sports, and learned a lot of new skills. The following summer, once her central line had been removed, she was able to go to the pool and actually learned how to swim! She finally got to be a child again – not just a child with cancer. The counselors were amazing and so caring. As parents, we knew Sunrise was a safe place and that the staff knew how to care for her because she wasn’t just a child, she was a child with certain limitations and would require some adjustments. We also felt at ease because Sunrise was the place where she wasn’t looked at as different because of no hair or a catheter hanging from her chest… She was just any other camper. In 2019, Sunrise also welcomed Sophia’s younger brother Luka.
Sunrise Day Camp is a magical place, where they give kids the world! And even in the darkest times like these, they find ways to brighten their lives and make children with cancer feel special. Our family is so thankful to everyone who makes these programs possible, because without Sunrise, cancer would feel so much worse than it already is. Sunrise brings back the smiles, happiness, and joy to their little lives.
We hope you will consider participating in the 2021 SunriseWALKS event this year. Now more than ever, Sunrise needs our support to continue to provide their amazing camp and year-round programming for thousands of children, just like Sophia.
Please help us support Sunrise Association by making a contribution to our team and sharing this page with your family and friends. Every dollar we raise will advance Sunrise Association's great cause!
Together, we can make a difference!
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts,
Iryna, Yuroslav, Sophia, Luka and Ella 2021 SunriseWALKS Camp Ambassadors