It was Thanksgiving of 2004 that our lives changed forever. Our joyful, full-of-life 5-year old daughter Savannah was diagnosed with such a rare form of cardiac sarcoma (cancer of the heart) that there have been less than 200 cases ever recorded, and none in a child. It was heartbreaking to watch as she was plunged into a nightmare of two open-heart surgeries, the second of which successfully resected the tumor, but had a devastating result. The surgeons had unknowingly torn her esophagus, and worse than that, didn’t diagnose the problem until a week later. Her body was septic with infection, and she had to have emergency surgery to insert excruciatingly painful chest-tubes to drain the infected material, and a stomach tube that fed her from a hanging bag of “food” for 18 hours a day. As a result, radiation, a cornerstone of sarcoma treatment, while risky to begin with, was now no longer an option, and the only other choice, possible life-saving chemotherapy had to be put on hold, severely diminishing its effectiveness. Most devastating to Savannah, however, was that she was no longer able to eat or drink anything by mouth until the esophagus healed, if it did at all. Not only was she unable to fight her extremely life-threatening disease, but her entire quality of life was destroyed. And yet she NEVER complained, and went through every day with a smile on her face.
Anyone who knew Savannah was touched by her constant smile, her gentleness, and her old-soul-like wisdom and concern for everyone besides herself; traits that made her truly an inspiration to us and so many others. Savannah’s esophagus did heal, six months later, and she completed her year-long course of strong chemotherapy, fraught with infections, long hospital stays, and the loss of her hair as well as her childhood. Throughout her ordeal, especially after losing the ability to eat, she became extremely interested in the benefits of food, and how it can help or hurt our bodies. While I had always fed our children a healthy, vegetarian-based diet, not only was I not completely educated on the dangers of pesticides on our growing children’s bodies, but I didn’t even know where to find organic foods and products. In an effort to cleanse Savannah’s fragile body and provide her only with the most healing of sustenance, I began to take cooking classes from a macrobiotic chef. Savannah was at her happiest participating in these classes. She would spend hours in the kitchen cooking and creating healthy, delicious meals that everyone could enjoy but her. This interest, combined with her love of ALL living creatures and the beauty of nature, led her to decide that she wanted to become an organic farmer when she grew up. She so wanted to impact the whole world in a positive way, and find a way to provide everyone with affordable, healthy, organic food that was grown in an earth-friendly, sustainable way. Quite a goal for a seven year old!
Savannah went into remission in February of 2006, during which time she spread her joyful spirit and love of life to all those around her. She began to reclaim her childhood, and even made a trip to Hawaii with her family, during which she couldn’t have been happier. Sadly, with no outward symptoms, a routine scan revealed on December 1, 2006 that her cancer had returned, now in two places on her heart. Surgery was not an option, but a last ditch effort with a new chemotherapy was. Savannah’s parents asked Savannah if she would agree to go through chemo again; she took a moment to think it through knowing all it would entail, then looked up and said she would do it if her dad and I promised her we would help her get her farm started. We promised.
Savannah lost her battle against this deadly disease May 18th, 2007 and her father and I are determined to keep our promise, and by doing so, nurture a healthy future for the children we all love so much.
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