It was March when Shelby Skiles’ 2-year-old daughter Sophie started experiencing a dry cough.
“It just wouldn’t go away,” Skiles tells Babble. “But I wasn’t quick to take her to the doctor for little things so I assumed it was the allergies that she and I both have. We rode it out until it started sounding ‘gross’, and then took her to Urgent care.”
But when all of the tests came back clear — including a chest X-ray in April — and the cough still hadn’t gone away, Sophie was diagnosed with asthma and scheduled for allergy testing.
But unbeknownst to anyone yet, Sophie didn’t have asthma, and on May 18, she stopped breathing. After being rushed to a local hospital and then being transferred to Children’s Hospital in Dallas, doctors discovered a softball sized mass in her chest.
“For the next 12 weeks, we were in and out of the hospital,” Skiles says, as they aggressively attempted to treat the cancer with chemotherapy.
It has now been 146 days since Sophie’s diagnosis, and she, mom Shelby, and dad Jonathan have spent nearly all of them in the hospital or a rehabilitation facility.
Yet they aren’t complaining. In fact, they find comfort in this unconventional journey, by hoping to use Sophie’s story to spread awareness of what pediatric cancer patients and their families go through. And it appears that they are definitely succeeding in their mission.
In a now-viral post made on Sophie The Brave’s Facebook page, Shelby is taking the time to thank the nurses whom care for her daughter, day in and day out.
“I see you,” she writes in her open letter to pediatric nurses everywhere. “I sit on this couch all day long and, I see you. You try so hard to be unnoticed by me and my child. I see your face drop a little when she sees you and cries. You try so many ways to ease her fears and win her over. I see you hesitate to stick her or pull [Band-Aids] off. You say ‘no owies’ and ‘I’m sorry’ more times in one day than most people say ‘thank you’,” pointing out what so many nurses in their profession know all too well, yet aren’t always sure that others notice.”
What Sophie’s family is going through isn’t easy, especially after getting the devastating news in August that despite the chemotherapy wiping out Sophie’s ability to eat, walk, talk, and use her hands, it hadn’t wiped out the cancer. In fact, the cancer had spread.
Which is why the Skiles’ are especially thankful for everything the nurses do for them.
“You put aside what’s happening in your life for 12 hours straight to care for very sick and sometimes dying children,” Skiles’ post continues. “You go into each room with a smile no matter what’s happening in there. You see Sophie’s name on the schedule and come to check on us even when she isn’t your patient. You call the doctor, blood bank, and pharmacy as many times as necessary to get my child what she needs in a timely manner. You check on me as often as you check on her. You sit and listen to me ramble for 10 minutes even though your phone is buzzing and your to do list is a mile long.”
Thankfully, on October 4, the Skiles family learned that Sophie was nearly cancer free, and she’s now scheduled for a bone marrow transplant that will hopefully cure her. The Skiles’ are thanking their nurses more than ever, because they know that they only way they are able to continue standing by their daughter, is because they have nurses standing next to them.
“I see you. We all see you,” Skiles’ post continues. “No amount of snack baskets or cards can fully express how appreciated you are. You are Jesus to us every single day. Our children wouldn’t get what they need without you.”
As the parent of two special needs children myself, I could not agree more with Sophie’s parent’s assessment of their nurses; they are critical in the care of our children. And when you realize that pediatric cancers are only granted 4 percent of all cancer funding in the U.S., it makes everyone who stands behind a pediatric cancer patient, a little more valuable.
Sophie is not just a little girl with cancer. She is the precious daughter of Shelby and Jonathan. A beautiful child who loves all the Disney Princesses, Veggie Tales movies, and is a HUGE fan of stickers. She is also a frustrated child who has lost the use of her hands and the ability to play. But she comes from a family who is fighting for her life, and is so thankful for the nurses who are fighting along with them.
“I’m brave, Mama,” Sophie often tells her mother and her family, and so they are being brave right along with her.
As for all the nurses that are supporting them in this battle, Shelby has one last thing to say to them: “You save our babies and we couldn’t do this without you. Love, a mom that sees all you do and loves you dearly for it.”
We here at Babble couldn’t agree more.
If you’d like to support your local nurses as they support the families who need them most, reach out to the hospital near you and offer to pamper them. A catered lunch during a busy weekend, or a pizza delivery in the middle of the night, reminds them that we care!
And if you’d like to support Sophie and her family during this difficult time, you can learn more about how to help on the Sophie The Brave Facebook page.