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Life Within the Journey Then and Now: Sumera

Live By Example

It’s impossible to predict the future. There are too many unknowns. Sumera was 2 years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancer of the bones and the soft tissue surrounding them. Sumera’s mom, Sumbul, knew something was wrong when Sumera kept crying in pain each night, and eventually was not able to walk. When they received the diagnosis, Sumbul had no idea what the future held for her daughter, or if there would even be a future.

The family decided on an aggressive treatment plan that included surgery, followed by one year of chemo, then two months of radiation. The chemo weakened Sumera’s immune system so much that most of the year was spent fighting severe infections. The infections usually caused fevers of up to 105 degrees, requiring constant visits to the emergency room at all hours of the day or night. I met with Sumbul recently and asked her how they got through this difficult time. She said, “I reframed the situation and acted positively for Sumera’s sake.” She helped her daughter focus on the good things offered at Yale New Haven Hospital, where her treatment took place. At the hospital, Sumera received many gifts provided by different organizations and donors, and she was also able to take an art class and learn how to draw.

When her treatment ended, Sumera was cancer-free and began to resume her childhood. But the effects of her cancer on her vertebrae hindered her body’s ability to grow. Sumera is currently in 5th grade but is the size of a 2nd grader.  Because of her size, she is unable to participate in many activities with other kids her age, such as sports, and it has made it harder for her to make friends. 

For the first five years after treatment, there was a constant fear that lingered. What if her cancer comes back? What if she gets another infection? What if something else goes wrong? But Sumbul realized that worrying about all these unknowns did nothing to help her daughter. She had to focus instead on the current wellbeing of both Sumera and herself and live in the present moment. She learned to appreciate life right now. Sumbul said, “If something happens in the future, we’ll figure it out then. You have to trust yourself. Life will move on, and everyone will do their best.”

Sumera is now 10 years old and doing well.  She continues to pursue her interest in art and likes to draw and create various arts & crafts.  She has no memory of her cancer, and in spite of her challenges, is enjoying a happy and healthy life.  Her positive attitude has clearly been shaped by the example set by her mother.  Sumera regularly tells her mom “If I can beat cancer, I can do anything.”

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