Sarah vs. Cancer

May 30, 2018 7:07 am

On November 2nd 2014, five year-old Sarah Watkin lost her battle with childhood AML, an aggressive form of pediatric leukemia.

Sarah, an active five year-old who loved wearing dresses and playing in the mud, came down with strep throat during a family vacation to Mexico with mother Leah, her father, Mark, and then one-year-old sister, Elizabeth.  Sarah was given a prescription from a local doctor, but when the family returned to Canada, her health continued to deteriorate. Tests were performed, and the results sent a wave of fear through her family.  Sarah, they learned in October 2012, was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer that affects bone marrow and blood cells.

I read about Sarah’s condition shortly after she was diagnosed; her family had created a Facebook page called “Sarah’s Drive for Hope”.  As a parent, I could not imagine what Leah and Mark were experiencing and I was immediately gripped by this little girl’s story of courage as she fought cancer.  I don’t have words to truly explain, but I needed to do whatever I could to help or just make her smile so I reached out to Mitch, a friend of the Watkin family.  Mitch was volunteering at the Oncology Unit at the hospital treating Sarah – the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto – and he directed me in sending Sarah any gifts I could think of to make her time at the hospital brighter or to make her smile.

I wanted to do more. I wanted to plan swab drives at schools and workplaces, do whatever I could to raise awareness and look for a bone marrow match for Sarah’s Drive for Hope and her family’s fight against AML.  With the support of two of my colleagues, we had 1000 Sarah’s Drive for Hope rubber bracelets created and we were given the green light to sell them at Yogurty’s in Thornhill.  I wanted the Watkin family to feel our community’s solidarity when they saw people wearing the bracelet or taking to social media to post a picture.

Sarah captured my heart.  There is no other way to explain it.  Being a mom to a child just a bit younger than Sarah, it broke my heart to know that a child in our community was suffering.  No child should have to go through this.  Nobody should have cancer.

When I started my work here at ICRF I linked my desire to work in cancer research and fundraising to Sarah and to her story.  I am working with Israel Cancer Research Fund to raise much needed funds towards making cancer a thing of the past; I want to make AML a thing of the past.  Sarah defines my career choice and is my silent motivator everyday. With a picture of Sarah in my office on my inspirational board, I am constantly reminded of Sarah and the fight we can never stop fighting.

A community member recently asked me why I joined ICRF.  To me, there is nothing more important than the twin causes of supporting Israel and the need to advance cancer treatments and further cancer research to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Thank you to Mark & Leah Watkin for allowing me to write about Sarah.  Visit @sarahsdriveforhope on Facebook to learn more about Sarah and how her parents are keeping the fight alive in Sarah’s name and in the name of cancer research.

Sarah Watkin



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