Creating a Ripple Effect

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Abby and Matt, celebrating life!

As we raise awareness this month about childhood cancer, we show the harsh side of it; the devastation, the heartache and pain that our children go through. The posts about childhood cancer facts are very much appreciated, because facts don’t lie. When we are faced with the truth, we can no longer sit back and be complacent.

There are many ways to create change and face a cancer diagnosis. Abby Sayles and her family have shown us a positive and powerful way to battle cancer that is not only effective (Abby is about a year cancer free), but also has caused a ripple effect across the cancer community.

I first met Abby and her family after she married her nurse, Matt Hickling, in a touching ceremony at The Melodies Center. Just this act alone started by the tremendous support Matt showed Abby, raised awareness around the world about what a child with cancer goes through.

Dance to be Healed began to celebrate that support and is now an annual event where children and their families get dressed up, dance, and take time off from their treatment and worries.

For a few years, Abby has walked in our July 4th parade and jumps right into the activity of handing out candy and bags. She truly teaches us that Nothing is Impossible. She is living proof of that.

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Abby always raises awareness in style.

If that wasn’t enough of a ripple effect, Abby and her family started a lemonade stand where she raises money for The Melodies Center and this year for Nick’s Fight to be Healed. Giving back builds community and provides strength to the families who open their hearts to the support.

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Abby, 100% healed and still giving back!

Community makes a huge difference in healing. I truly believe that Abby’s positive attitude helped her to heal. She learned this from her parents and the amazing staff at the clinic.

Now that Abby is done with treatment, she stays connected to her cancer family, because connection continues that ripple effect. The more people understand what a child goes through, the more they will help. When someone who never knew about childhood cancer sees what Abby and other kids have done, then they move forward to create change. Before we know it that ripple turns into a wave of action.

How will you create a ripple effect? What will you do today to help a child with cancer? Doesn’t have to be huge. One stone can cause a ripple.

Nick’s Warrior Kendra Sisco–Raising Awareness for Young Adults with Cancer

Imagine you are a cheerleader in the midst of your high school career with your whole young life ahead of you. Unfortunately, you trip on a mat during a cheer and injure your knee. If it’s an injury to a ligament it can take time to heal, but you always know that you will get back to what you love to do. Kendra Sisco may not have been able to get back to cheerleading, but that trip may have saved her life. Thinking it was an ACL injury Kendra had to have knee surgery. Unfortunately, the pain continued so she had to have another surgery. Her orthopedic surgeon referred her to an orthopedic oncologist who strongly believed it wasn’t cancer, yet the pain continued. It was after her third knee surgery that Kendra was told she had an increased number of b-cells. Soon after they went to Boston Children’s Hospital and she was diagnosed with b-cell non-hodgkin lymphoma in September 2014–two years after her injury!
Kendra gearing up to battle and kick cancer’s butt!
How do you move past not only stopping what you love, but being diagnosed with cancer in the prime of your life? Well the Sisco way is to give back and never give up. I first met Kendra when she and her family wanted to give back to the foundation and The Melodies Center instead of the other way around. She and her family were incredibly grateful for the Family Hope Bag that they were given when Kendra was diagnosed and Nick’s Comfort Bag that Kendra’s friends actually shopped to fill. For her 16th birthday, Kendra decided to have a birthday party fundraiser. It was an amazing success and the money raised supported The Melodies Center and a future Teen Technology room on the Children’s Hematology/Oncology floor at Albany Medical Center. If that wasn’t enough, Kendra has become involved with the foundation’s teen advisory group Nick’s Round Table. This coming year she will serve as co-Vice President with Erin Doescher.  Kendra is excited to help raise funds and get more teens involved. 
Kendra with her amazing family at the birthday fundraiser.
It’s true that it is tragic to be diagnosed with cancer at any time in your life. However, when you are on the cusp of finding out who you are, becoming independent, and looking toward your bright future, a diagnosis is a huge blow. You know what you are missing out on and you know that people look at you differently. When your life is out of control, you want to find ways to keep making some decisions. When it came to her friends, Kendra told them one by one and that she was open to questions. Of course with the world of social media, many people found out anyway. Some were very scared and others didn’t know how to deal with the situation. 
The friends who got it kept her in the loop as she missed a great deal of her junior year. Her family was her biggest emotional supporter and having met them, I can see where Kendra gets her strength! That emotional support was so important since Kendra could feel how much people cared. That’s the main reason she gives back. Kendra states that, “The Comfort Bag was one of the best things I received. If I could make even one child that is struggling smile or feel better, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
As Nick’s Warrior, Kendra wants to spread awareness to the community about childhood cancer and especially how badly it affects young adults. According to Kendra, being a teenager is hard enough and having to undergo treatment at the same time can be a lot. It’s tough to be different from the other kids. She experienced stares and weird looks. Teens can be judgmental not knowing how to act around someone who doesn’t have hair. Kendra had to be on steroids, which can cause moodiness and weight gain. Add in losing your hair, it’s hard to feel like you fit in. Even though a teenager is sick, it doesn’t mean they stop being teenagers. But Kendra has such a strong spirit, she accepts her differences like she accepts the physical scars from cancer. They are proof that she is truly a warrior of the bravest kind. She has fought the biggest battle of her life and despite the pain she has suffered, she heals through giving back.
If you want to help Kendra fight back against cancer, please register and attend Nick’s Run to be Healed 5K on Sunday, September 27. All information to register and donate can be found on our website. With the Sisco family on the front lines, this year may prove to be the biggest fundraiser yet!
For more info on Nick’s Run go to www.fighttobehealed.org