Like most little girls, Tara Sankner has always dreamed about becoming a princess . . .
Unlike most little girls, Tara’s dream has come true. For a short time, at least, and no-one could deserve it more. You see, for Tara, life itself has become the stuff of nightmares.
Tara’s troubles began a little over 12 months ago. Until that time, her life couldn’t have been more ordinary. She enjoyed arts, with painting and drawing her favorites. She had become quite the softball pitcher. She loved to hang out with her friends.
But then, one day, along came the cancer. It attacked her brain and is so aggressive that the doctors believe it is inoperable. Two or three months ago, Tara began a course of chemotherapy treatment that will take 70 long weeks. These days, she is always so tired.
‘I call her my warrior princess,’ says mom Tammy, her own pain all too obvious. ‘She is the bravest girl I know. [Sometimes] she says ‘Mommy, I’m sorry this happened’ and I [have to] tell her [that] it’s not her fault. She’s my rock star, because she has been a rock through this whole thing. She’s not letting things get her down [and] she’s [always] telling me ‘We’re going to get through this’. I couldn’t be prouder. I get a lot of my strength through her’.
Being parents ourselves, we can’t begin to imagine Tammy’s torment, and her frank description of the impact that Tara’s illness has had on all the family is one that upsets us a great deal.
‘My day depends on how she’s doing,’ explains Tammy. ‘If she’s having a good day, I’m fine. If not, we cry and scream with pain sometimes, and we have a lot of cuddle time together. When Tara is having a tough time, I sit there helpless and think ‘Why can’t I take this away? Why couldn’t it be me instead of her?’ That’s the hardest part. I’m a mom and that’s what moms do.’
Thankfully, the Sankners are not facing this alone. Their local community – in Chantilly, Virginia – couldn’t have been more supportive, whilst an online campaign to raise funds to cover the family’s rising medical bills has received a great response. The best gift of all, however, came from Tom Mitchell.
Tom – a hospital volunteer who runs the StillBrave Childhood Cancer Foundation – lost his own daughter to cancer and, ever since, has devoted himself to aiding others.
‘I believe that my daughter gave her life so that I could be in the position to help other [sick] children,’ he explains. Having heard about Tara’s penchant for princesses, Tom got to work.
First, he organised a flash mob and, with more than 1,000 people having responded, he dressed as Prince Charming and called upon Tara. He organized a manicure and pedicure and, following a tea party fit for royalty, placed a pair of glass slippers on her feet. The pair then took a carriage ride through Chantilly, whilst the crowds clapped and cheered, and made clear their love and support.
‘I was shocked beyond all belief at the turnout,’ says Tammy. ‘The show of support for Tara was unreal and I think that it’s amazing how the community has come together to help us.’
‘I liked seeing all the people,’ adds Tara. ‘I feel so happy that they did this for me and [that] everyone cares about me’.
Here at OM®, this has struck quite a chord and we’d like to applaud everyone who turned out to make Tara’s day so special. We’d like to commend Tom, whose daughter, Shayla, would be so proud of her dad. We’d like to underline that we all have it in us to help others, to bring a little light into their lives and to make things just a little more bearable, even if it’s just for a short time.
Cancer – and our fragility as human beings – connects us, but so too do love and kindness. We send our love and support to Tara and her family, and we wish them all well.