In 2011, as I was preparing to graduate from high school, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Finding out this news was devastating not only for me, but for my family and friends. When I began chemotherapy it was difficult for my mother, sister and me to adjust. Monday through Friday our morning routine was to get ready for work, school -- and chemo. In the evenings it was even more hectic because my mother would leave work early to pick me up from the hospital, then pick my little sister up from the babysitter. We would get home and my mom would cook dinner (although my sister was a selective eater and I probably wouldn’t keep the food down, but she cooked anyway), clean and check homework. All before 9pm.
Can you say “Superwoman”?!?
People have said to my mother, “Sophia, I don’t know how you do it because I would have lost all of my sanity.”
My mother as well as my sister were able to get through this difficult time in our life only because we had the support of Friends of Karen.
I remember the first day I met Rhonda Ryan, our Friends of Karen social worker. (Yes, even with “chemo brain” I remember.) I was in isolation in the hospital because I had a cold. I remember waking up and seeing her and my mom talking to each other. My first thought was, “Who is this lady and why is she so happy to see me waking up? I was just sleeping!” My mother introduced Rhonda, and Rhonda introduced Friends of Karen.
Another amazing person is Melinda Ferraraccio, a Friends of Karen Sibling Support Specialist. On Wednesdays she’d come to our house to spend time with my sister doing art projects and helping her learn how to cope with my illness and the changes in our life because of it. Sibling support is an amazing resource that Friends of Karen provides.
At back to school season, we received a package filled with our school supplies. At the holidays, Christmas presents, or ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner. Since my mother was working fewer hours in order to take care of me, Friends of Karen was able to alleviate some of her bills, such as the rent.
It has been 2½ years since my last round of chemotherapy. My mom has been able to work the hours she normally did, my sister and I are able to spend quality sister time together, and I am in my junior year of college. Despite going back to our busy daily pre-chemo routine, we still show our appreciation of Friends of Karen by calling Rhonda frequently to update her on the health and well-being of my entire family. And can you believe that Friends of Karen bought my laptop for school and sent my sister to camp this past summer? It is because of everyone here in this room that this organization can help families like mine.