• Louisa Weibe Stringer

September, Sephine, and Support

On one bleak, snow-flurried Monday morning in March, I sat in a hard, unfriendly, plastic leather chair, gazing out of the giant window at the busy street below me, Jimmy Fund Way. My four year old daughter, Sephine, lay next to me in a treatment bed getting her umpteenth chemotherapy treatment. It was on this day, my 36th birthday of all days, I asked a question of her oncology team that I had not asked during the whole time of her diagnosis. Maybe they had already told me about the information I was seeking, but I don’t remember. As a parent you are told so many things in the initial days, but the only words that stick are “your child has cancer.” Everything else is a blur. 

It was there in that  chair, with her doctors accompanying her at her bedside, that I decided it was then to ask them to “tell me about the prognosis of this cancer.” Maybe I was attempting a new level of boldness and strength on my birthday. The words, confidently exited my lips, but too soon were regretted, as I listened to their response. “This is a really tough cancer...a lot of times it comes back when the child is in their early teens, like 13...we don’t like to use the word remission with this cancer...she most likely will not be able to have children with the chemotherapy she is having...her growth will always be affected...we cannot guarantee she won’t have any cognitive damage to her brain….” 

I thanked them for their honesty as they pulled the curtain closed and walked away from our nook of a pseudo private space. I bit my lip and the tears started to well up. I pushed my emotions back inside me, needing to stay strong for the little creature that lay in the bed next to me. 

Today, we celebrate Sephine’s 14th birthday. I can’t even type that without those tears running down my cheeks. For Sephine, many doctors, countless medicines, and varieties of therapies are normal, but she is the epitome of amazing, despite what her life has been. She is my warrior, my kind hearted soul of a daughter. 

There are so many children, and families of children, affected by this awful disease. Day in and day out, families travel to, or are living in, hospitals and treatment centers as they hope and pray for the positive outcomes we all want when anyone is diagnosed. 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As you can probably tell from my story, children aren’t the only people affected by a cancer treatment. Parents and families take on most of the emotional weight and mental hardship of this disease. Understanding what feeds you as a parent/caregiver, nurtures you, keeps you, and strengthens you in this process is a very powerful tool. 

I am honored to continue work with Cape Wellness Collaborative, who has recognized the need for the diagnosed child and the families journeying with them to be cared for as their life opens its new chapter to cancer. WellnessKids is Cape Wellness’ initiative which started in 2019 to help not just the child but also assist the family as a whole. Our WellnessKids team is a group of dedicated wellness professionals who are vetted to work with pediatric cancer clients and their families. WellnessKids provides free integrative therapies, nutritional support, meal deliveries, caregiver support, and other helpful resources to children and their families on Cape Cod and the Islands facing cancer.  Every year, more families on Cape Cod and the Islands are having to face the impact of their child being diagnosed with this disease. Pediatric Oncology is a service offered only in Boston and surrounding towns. The hope for Cape Wellness Collaborative is to help the family feel better during their cancer journey by providing these free integrative wellness therapies closer to home.

To support the initiative and to ultimately acknowledge September being an awareness about all the children and families facing cancer not just where I live, but everywhere, click here.

-- Louisa Wiebe Stringer "To your core, you are loved"

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