2019 Honored Patient: Olivia
For Nick and Sheena of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, their daughter Olivia’s cancer diagnosis on November 22, 2017 was a life-changing reality check.
“It’s something we never thought we would ever be going through and wouldn’t wish upon anyone else,” said Sheena. “But, a lot of good has come out of this situation. It has truly shown us what is most important.”
Now just 2 years old, Olivia was diagnosed with Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma after her family noticed that her head grew by 2 inches in 4 weeks and she stopped rolling over. Since then, Olivia and her family have completed 18 of their 20 months of chemotherapy treatments.
“Olivia’s cancer diagnosis has changed everything about our lives,” continued Sheena. “From certain beliefs we had about cancer to how we live each day, little things that used to be stressful to us are no longer on our minds. We see things a bit more clearly now and have found strength in ourselves and in our family that we didn’t know existed. We have been honored to receive so much from our family, friends and community, and we look forward to the day we can give back to others in need. We have grown deeper in our faith and can see God working through Olivia and our family.”
Nick's and Sheena's appreciation extends to Olivia’s medical team led by Dr. Anne Bendel at Children’s Minnesota and those who contribute to ongoing research efforts.
“We could not be happier or more grateful for everyone involved with Olivia’s care. We owe her life to everyone on her team and that is something we will never forget. We are excited to be nearing the end of treatment but when I think about not seeing everyone on our weekly trips to Children’s it makes me sad. They have become family to us and we get a sense of joy whenever we see everyone who has helped Olivia throughout this journey.”
Olivia’s intense treatment has not tempered her cheerful personality and infectious smile. According to her family, Olivia has been a fighter from Day 1 and always inspires them to keep going and push through the challenging days.
The family is looking ahead with optimism for a wonderful life for Olivia. Today, she loves swinging, going for walks and just about anything outside with her sisters Lauren (7) and Kendall (5). She also loves playing with her babies and making food in her play kitchen.
When asked about advice for other newly diagnosed families, Sheena offered the following.
“Take things one day at a time. Try to focus on the good things that happen and the wonderful people you will meet. It can be easy to get sucked into the negative emotions but please don’t waste energy on those things. Just do what you have to do in the moment and if you have a form of spirituality, try to harness that - it will help give you strength.”