Resilience in Remission

Sarah was always active as a swimmer, soccer player, track star and dancer. However, she started losing muscle tone at age 11.If she leaned over while dancing, she had trouble getting back up. Running became increasingly difficult. Then came low-grade fevers and a cold that just wouldn’t go away.

Sarah Stephens

Sarah Stephens

In October 2013, Sarah began crying because of intense pain in her side and legs. Her parents took her to the Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Within eight hours, Sarah was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was a week after her 12th birthday.

Considered a high-risk patient, she stayed in hospital for induction chemotherapy, which aims to achieve remission in about one month. After this was successful, she received more chemotherapy before returning home for Christmas.

Sarah returned to the hospital later that winter because she was vomiting and losing a lot of weight, so she was placed on a feeding tube. She also formed blood clots, which was a side effect of one of her medications, necessitating needles twice a day in her abdomen for eight months.

“For someone who panics with needles or any medical trauma, Sarah could not have done it without outside support. I can’t say enough about the child life specialists or the nurses who are so caring. Everyone is fantastic.”
– Sarah’s mother, Cathi

This included the nurses who made sure to have Sarah’s favourite food (macaroni and cheese) at the ready, and the child life specialists who kept the craft supplies well stocked because they knew how much she loves art.

On November 24, 2015, Sarah had her last dose of chemotherapy and she remains in remission to this day. Sarah is back home in Stoney Creek and is enjoying Grade 8. After such a challenging ordeal, her entire family appreciates the vital role of donor support in enabling the pediatric oncology department to provide outstanding health care.

“We will always be grateful for everyone at McMaster Children’s Hospital,” says Cathi. “The doctors and nurses are absolutely wonderful. Without them, we might not have our daughter today.”

Sarah was selected to represent McMaster Children’s Hospital as the 2016 Children’s Miracle Network Champion presented by Walmart. The program unites patient ambassadors from children’s hospitals across Canada for a series of fun activities in Orlando, Florida.

View Sarah’s story below and consider donating to McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation by clicking here.