FOCUS :: CHILDHOOD CANCER

EMILIO

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Emilio was diagnosed with cancer on February 22, 2014 and went through several years of chemo therapy treatment.
He finished treatment a year ago. He now takes medication for seizures and is still working to build his stamina but we are blessed that he is in remission and doing great!
We knew that fighting cancer was going to be the hardest thing our family would go through but one thing we were not expecting was the anxiety and stress that Emilio would face after chemo when returning to school. Chemo was his life for a couple of years. The hospital was his school and his friends were the nurses and Doctors. Once he was finished with treatment… it was done. We realized at that point, it was like taking this little 5th grade boy and telling him get back to your ‘”normal life”, oh and by the way- your an 8th grader now!
After fighting cancer it’s so unfair to watch him struggle with the simple things, like hanging out with friends or interacting in class.  It broke our hearts to hear him talk about how he eats lunch by himself or sits in a teacher’s classroom during breaks because he’s too shy to talk to anyone.
With lots of encouragement from his family and teachers this new school year seems to be getting better he’s starting to feel more comfortable in his “new normal”.  He still has good days and bad days, but just like with cancer he keeps going no matter how hard it gets!
“When someone finishes chemo, even though their hair has grown back in and they look strong, they still need people cheering them on because it’s hard work getting back to normal life.” -Emilio

EMILY

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Emily had just turned a year old when she got diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. She started out with really high fevers that we were told by doctors that is was just a virus. The fevers persisted and she got to the point that she couldn’t even keep her medicine down. So we took her back to the hospital. They poked her 12 times that night to get her IV in. To have to hold her down and to see her in that amount of pain it broke my heart. They took blood samples and after a couple of hours they let us take her home. We were home maybe 3 hours when they called us back that they were admitting Emily. Some bacteria had grown in her blood they treated her for the bacteria but he fevers wouldn’t stop. That’s when the started to run other test by they didn’t have any answers. Emily’s stomach started to get so big that her bellybutton popped out. So they decided to do a scan that showed a tumor next to her liver and her kidney. They told me she had Cancer my world came crashing down in an instant. They said it was Stage 4 Neuroblastoma that in a couple of days they would operate her tumor. They operated her but they weren’t able to take her tumor out. Soon after the started chemo she received 6 rounds of chemo. In those 6 round her cancer spread threw her body and we were referred to a Neuroblastoma specialist in San Francisco. They meet with us and came up with a whole new game plan for Emily. They did tell us that she had a 3% chance of being cancer free but we wouldn’t give up. They did a Bone marrow harvest form her own blood cells. She started a much stronger chemo and after a couple of months she was ready for surgery. The second surgery was a success they were able to take out her tumor. Now they had to focus on the cancer in her bones. We started her on some medication that was known to treat acne but that had worked on other people for cancer. She took them for four months and they did scans. They meet with us to let us know that she was officially in remission. She was in treatment for a year and eight months but it was all worth it. We still go for check ups and scans. It has now been two years and a month that she has been in remission. She is finally knowing what its like to be a normal little girl. Loving life to the fullest.

Kamila

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Kamila turned 6 years old in 2012.  She was starting first grade at a new school and she was very excited.  After a few weeks at her new school, Kamila started having severe headaches, of course at that time I had no idea how severe her pain was, and frequent vomiting just about every morning.  I still feel guilty because I would send her to school even though she complained.  I took her to her doctor and all I was told was she had an infection.  Weeks went by and her condition got worse.  She would lose balance when walking and would fall to her right side, she lost control of her right eye, and that was when I took her to the emergency room and asked the doctor what was wrong with my daughter.  She had a CT scan on September 6, 2012, and that day was when I felt my world collapse when I heard the doctor say “you daughter has a brain tumor”.  That same day she was sent to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.

That September day was the longest day of my entire life.  I started thinking, what have I done wrong?  What has my baby done wrong? After all she had just turned 6.  After Kamila got admitted to the hospital a felt at peace, I felt that everything was going to be okay, because I decided to put my daughter’s life in God’s hands.  Kamila had surgery on September 10, 2012 to remove the brain tumor.  The surgery was a success.  After the tumor was sent for testing, more bad news was coming our way.  Turned out the tumor was cancerous, doctors told me the name of the cancer she had was called Medulloblastoma.  After a few days my husband and I decided to follow with her treatment which included radiation and chemotherapy at the same time.
Her treatment had great results!  Until this day Kamila is free of cancer!

Every day I thank God for her health, for putting Kamila in the path of all the great doctors and nurses who helped her get better.  Yes, Kamila has struggled at school with other kids because her hair has not grown back, but she is very mature about that.  She is aware of what has happened to her.  Some day’s she is doing great others not so much, and it is something my family and I will continue to learn to live with.

It is not easy, but it is not impossible to overcome a life threating illness as cancer.  Personally, I take it one day at a time because it is not easy to let go of all the struggles I saw my daughter fight against.  She will continue to fight many battles which are the result of all her treatment, but God almighty will make it easy for her and for all the children who are battling cancer, I am sure.  We trust in Jesus!

Fernando

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Fernando was diagnosed June 21, 2016 with Pre-b cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He missed remission once, but obtained in Aug. 31, 2016 and he continues to be in remission.  Treatment continues to be challenging journey for Fernando and our family. Chemotherapy has played a toll on Fernando little body. He had to deal with a foot drop, nausea, rashes, anaphylactic reaction to medication, long hospital stays, ER visits, fevers, anesthetize, 18 lumber punchers, bone marrow biopsy and aspiration, surgery for mediport, and treatment will continue until Fernando is about 8 years old.

Fernando is a very loving, energetic, competitive, and has a great sense of humor. He is also very tough and caring.  Fernando has showed us what resilience looks like. He has been able to bounce back from all his downfalls from treatment and never complains. He is our hero!!  Fernando is in 1st grade at Leavenworth Elementary. He is enrolled in dual immurement program where he study Spanish. Fernando enjoys dancing Ballet Folklorico, swimming, playing soccer, baseball, and plants vs. Zombies.  Fernando wants to be an Oncologist because he would like to help other children with pediatric cancer.

Emily

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Emily was born Nov. 30th 2005. She loves sports, soccer being her favorite, history and spending time with her Grandfather. 
March 2015 Emily was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). 
She received 5 months of treatment at Valley Children’s Hospital. Achieved complete remission and return to school and sports. October 2016 Emily relapsed. Emily received treatment at Valley children’s and Lucile Packard Children Hospital – Stanford. On December 20th 2016 Emily received a bone marrow transplant from her little Sister. Today Emily is 8 months post Bone marrow transplant has returned to school and is doing
Amazing !

Leela

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I was diagnosed at age 14 and had to leave school for a year. I ended up staying back a grade which was really difficult for me but I kept my spirits up with music. I played my ukulele and sang songs to get through the hard times. I’m now about 1 and a half years done with treatment. Looking back, I don’t wish I’d never gotten sick- I’m thankful for the growth that this experience has allowed me.  Now I get to appreciate life on a whole new level.

Laci

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We joined the world of pediatric cancer on February 21st 2012 when she was 18 months old Laci was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma. She endured 10 months of chemo therapy and 6 weeks of radiation. Laci and our family didn’t get to have a normal Life, she didn’t get to go to the park and play or learn all the things toddlers do. Laci has been off of treatment now for 4 years even tho her life may look normal she is still effected by everything she went through. Today Laci is 7 years old and in the second grade and She struggles with memory loss and has a tough time hearing in the ear she received radiation to. Laci and everyone she knows is proud to say she is a “cancer survivor”.

 Aarin

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Our lives were turned upside down January 31, 2013. Aarin was diagnosed with ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, cancer of the blood at the age of 4. I say “our lives were turned upside down”, because diagnosis affects the whole family. 3.5 years of treatment which included many different types of chemotherapy, steroids, blood and platelet transfusions, numerous hospital stays inpatient and outpatient and surgery.. Aarin is just a little over a year and a half out of treatment, as he finished on April 5th, 2016.. Even though he’s been out of treatment for over a year life after treatment hasn’t been easy with some issues he’s had to deal with(side effects) from the chemotherapy that saved his life.. He is now 9 years old and in 3rd grade!!! He never gives up, he never complains.. He is our hero!

Chloe

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In October 2013 I was 8 months pregnant with my second baby. We noticed our daughter Chloe seemed more tired and less energetic, so we took her to doctor for a check up. As soon as he pricked her finger he told us to leave and go straight to valley children’s. Not long after multiple blood and platelet transfusion they told us Chloe had high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Through out the whole treatment Chloe was always positive andamazing. She finished her last chemo treatment on her 7th birthday- January 8th, 2016. She now goes in for monthly blood work. She’s a tough cookie and her positive spirit still amazes us.

Ellyanna

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Elyanna started experiencing pain in her arm and then started to limp when she walked. She was also very tired, had little appetite, and had some fevers. On June 9, 2015 she was taken to the emergency room in Hanford. After a short examination, she was sent home with ibuprofen. The next day she woke up in extreme pain and taken to Valley Childrens Hospital. We arrived to the hospital about 2:30 and by 4:30pm doctors gave the life changing news- leukemia. At that moment Elyanna’s life changed forever. She was admitted and received an emergency platelet transfusion and next day her Mediport was put in and chemo started. She has had two years of chemo treatments, multiple lumber punctures, multiple platelets and blood transfusion. She has been in remission since a month and a half after she was diagnosed. She will be completing treatment on August 31 of this year.
This journey has been scary but also has brought the family closer together. She loves having her cousins over and playing outside on the trampoline or the swings. Elyanna continues to smile and be her silly self!
Please join Sweet Nectar Society in cheering on Elyanna!

Knaiya

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When knaiya was 18 months old she was taken to the hospital with respiratory problems. After many ultrasounds and x-rays they realized she had a large mass in her chest that was compressing one of her lungs, tranchea, and heart all to the side. At that point she was only using one of her lungs which was why she was having such a difficult time breathing. She was then diagnosed with t-cell lymphoma. Knaiya went through two and a half years of chemotherapy and she fought everyday with a smile on her face.
By the grace of God knaiya beat her battle against cancer and is now in remission. Cancer has really affected our lives, I think as a parent watching your child have to fight for their life is the most difficult thing in the world. But she is such a strong girl and she is truly my inspiration and hero. She will forever be my warrior princess.

Natalia

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Cancer is not a happy word for me. When I think of cancer some of the things that come to mind are lots of shots, gross medicine, a lot of hospital stays. It is not fun for anyone to go through.
I will always remember the great nurses that made me laugh and held my hand through chemo. I am thankful for all the people who loved me through chemo. I have learned to stay strong all the way through it.

Sadie

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Sadie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on February 19, 2010, just four days shy of her 2nd birthday. She was considered a “Slow responder” which extended her treatment to 2.5 years.
In October 2010 Sadie got pneumonia and ended up in the PICU. She was put on a breathing machine, had 2 chest tubes and 1 stomach tube inserted. After weeks of being in the hospital and Sadie had a miraculous recovery from pneumonia and was able to go home to continue cancer treatment.
Sadie completed chemo on June 17, 2012. She has grown into a beautiful girl with a very bright future. She loves her dog, and doing the “normal kid stuff” she used to be limited to doing. Sadie is such a brave and strong girl, sometimes shy, and a touch of diva!

Khloe

Khloe was born April 22, 2010. It all started when Khloe was getting out of control fevers and then she started to limp around the house. After going back and forth to her doctor all they would say is she had some type of virus and maybe she sprained her ankle and that went on for two weeks. Two days after her second birthday on April 24, 2012 we finally took her to Valley Children’s Hospital. As we waited it was taking a long time. I could see from the window that all the doctors where outside her room and I could see it in the nurse’s faces that something was wrong. I would ask the nurse when the doctor was coming in and when she looked at me, I could see the tears in her eyes. I knew at that moment something was wrong. When the doctor came in he told us, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

She was hospitalized for the first couple months during that time she did end up in the PICU for about three weeks for a bad stomach infection that almost took her life. With the Grace of God by her side she amazed us all and fought her little heart out and overcame her issue.
Getting involved in raising money for cancer research was very comforting for us. In 2013 she was Girl of the Year for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She was very excited to be dressing up and taking pictures to go to different events. Khloe will forever be her family’s hero. Seeing our little princess go through this battle has changed our family in more ways than one. Were thankful for the family that we have that has helped and supported us through this journey. Khloe completed chemo in July 2014.
Khloe is now in second grade and is excited to learn a second language in her Dual Immersion Spanish program. She is a lil Diva all the way but when she playing soccer its watch out her comes (KoKo), she takes her games serious. She loves family time with her brother and sisters. God is good!

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Remembering Garrett

 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Throughout the month Sweet Nectar Society has been highlighting the personal accounts of the immediate and lasting effects cancer causes to our Sweeties and their families. It is our goal that this campaign will shed a golden light on our viewers and open their eyes to the fact that children deserve ‘More than 4%’ research funding.

The Saenz Family

Pattie and Juan Saenz became part of the Sweet Family in 2012 when their son Garrett received a photo session. Today they are sharing their story of how cancer continues to effect their family on a daily basis.

Garrett’s dad and Buster

Everything really does remind me of Garrett. As I go through the day the small things and the big things remind me of my boy. From hearing anything related to baseball, to seeing a Batman symbol on someones shirt can give me the momentary feeling of happiness and love that I received from Garrett himself.

The objects that draw out the greatest emotions are the ones that actually have some sort of physical tie to Garrett. Whether it be a photo or Garrett’s do Buster who is with us everyday. I am grateful for these things as they ease my pain of not having Garrett with us and at the same time remind us what an incredible little boy he was.

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Garrett’s mom and little sister

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about Garrett. When we tickle Ella a certain way, she sounds just like her brother and it brings us so much joy. Unfortunately, Ella wasn’t able to spend much time with her brother. Since Garrett was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia only six months after she was born. But we try our best to keep his memory alive. He’s always on our mind and forever in our hearts. 

Garrett loved his family, baseball, super heroes and his puppy Buster. He was brave and wise beyond his years. I do believe they give the toughest battles to the bravest warriors. 

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GARRETT’S SWEET STORY

In September 2012 Garret was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia shortly before his Sweet Nectar Society session. Garrett instantly stole the heart of his photographer who remained close to their family during his journey.

This little boy’s sweet laughter was a strong reminder that Garrett was determined. His childlike courage proved he was willing to take cancer by its horns and give it everything he had! This strong little boy was fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia, yet still found joy in each day. His chubby cheeks perfectly introduced his happy toothless grin. His tender heart was clearly seen through the way he affectionately loved his little sister and parents.

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Garrett received a bone marrow transplant at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in November and spent extended time in the hospital. During this time he and his family received a lot of love and support from the community, including a surprise game of catch with an NFL football player from his favorite football team, the 49ers.

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On the hottest August day EVER in the history of the world (or at least that is what it felt like), Garrett and his family braved the heat to take family pictures. Garrett’s cancer had returned in April. By this time our photographer Brittany and the Saenz we connected- Garrett took a special place in Brittany’s heart. It is easy to see how- just look at that smile!

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Shortly after their summer photo session Garrett was put on hospice. Dr. Sine and his team went above and beyond to give exceptional care to G and his family. Being on hospice care allowed Garrett to stay as comfortable as possible at home and spend less time in the hospital.  Making memories as a family continued to be their top priority.

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Garrett turned 8 surrounded by his family and friends with a celebration of super proportions. The backyard was filled with giggles, lots of running and jumping and the friendly neighborhood Spiderman- who came equipped with legit balloon animal skills.

A moment that sweetly stands out in my mind happened during Garrett’s birthday party. He had tons of his cousins and friends his age to play with but he noticed my little girl -who happened to be younger than him- had been standing in line for a balloon animal and all the big kids kept getting ahead of her- this birthday boy took her to the front of the line and told Spiderman she wanted a ballon snail. He got down to her eye level to chat with her while they waited for the snail to be done. This was the type of kid Garrett was- very aware of others feelings. Moments like these stand out and will forever be remembered!

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Days before Garrett took his last breath he and his family had photos taken. Despite having a fever and not feeling well, Garrett arrived with big smiles and lots of love to show his family. This day was special- to see his family interact with one another and enjoy an hour outdoors with no distractions was beautiful.

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We will forever love you G!

Abriah :: Undiagnosed

Abriah is a beautiful light in her families life. She was born healthy and began developing normally until around the age of one. He family became concerned when she wasn’t meeting milestones like walking. Their first thought was maybe she was a late bloomer, then around 18 months they thought that something could be wrong with her legs. Her mom then requested a second opinion from a specialist. It was around this time Abriah started loosing abilities she had acquired like: self feeding her favorite baby snacks, holding things, she knew how to crawl but she slowly forgot how to get into crawling position, she no longer knew how to sit up, lost trunk support, then head support, she smiled less often & lost the ability to play with her toys.
As time went on she continued to regress. MRI’s show the deterioration of her brain slowly becoming worse and worse with time. She’s missing the white matter that makes up part of our brain. Due to her regression her feedings became difficult. She lost the ability to chew and swallow so she was very thin- weighing 20lbs at 3 years old. She began to aspirate liquids into her lungs so a g­tube was placed to help her feedings and calorie intake. She now only feeds by g­tube and no longer by mouth.
Most recently Abriah has developed problems breathing and it’s made her chest bell shaped; she is currently waiting to see a pulmonary specialist. She can move her legs and arms but has she no control over the movements. She’s considered blind because she can not processed by her brain- she will only react to bright lights once in a while.
Test with diseases with similar symptoms have been run and they all show negative. Her test have been sent to the university of Washington were a group of geneticist will be studying her DNA and going over her results. As of today she has baffled teams of Doctor’s and geneticists. Her family is hoping for a diagnosis, although they know there is a chance she could remain an undiagnosed child. Abriah’s family continues to have hope and enjoy every second with her.
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Photography donated by Mckenzie Anker

Julietta :: Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Meet Julietta!
Juliette had Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She was a beautiful little warrior who loved to dance and look through books.
She was surrounded by family that loves her and a team of doctors and nurses who did everything they can to help Julietta beat cancer but her sweet little body lost the battle. The images taken during Julietta’s session will forever tell her story of being a precious and peaceful Sweetie who left a never ending impression on this world.

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Angel :: Premature Birth, Chronic lung, immune deficiency, and delay

Meet Angel! Angel was born premature weighing only 3 pounds at birth. He spent several months the NICU before he was able to go home. At 3 months old Angel started experiencing more medical issues. Angel’s biggest battle has been his lungs. He was also diagnosed with apnea that called for Angel to be hooked up to and apnea machine at all times, required medication and was given constant oxygen. Angel was diagnosed with severe Gerd and after several hospital admissions the decision was made for Angel to have surgery and get a G­tube and Fundoplication. Angel also struggled with Chronic lung, immune deficiency, and delay.
This sweet boy has demonstrated so much strength and courage, has continued to smile and has never given up.
This Sweet boy showed up in his scrubs and personalized doctors coat. He has had so many amazing doctors working with him, we think he could do an amazing job following in their footsteps!
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Photography donated byDerksen Photography

Phoebe :: Down Syndrome

Meet Phoebe!
Phoebe’s mom shared a sweet depiction of her Sweetie, we adore this girls spunk! “Phoebe is amazing! She is incredibly motivated and determined. If she wants something there is not much that will stop her from getting it, she is a dream chaser!
I found out when I was pregnant that Phoebe tested positive for Trisomy 21, but her markers were so insignificant on the ultrasounds that I asked for a blood test in the hospital when she was born. Even hours after she was born she was trying to lift her head up and was nursing. Phoebe has maintained meeting her developmental milestones within 6 months of her chronological age, which further illustrates her internal drive to succeed. As she has grown up over the last two years she has developed an amazing sense of humor and a wild yet stubborn personality! I feel blessed in knowing that NO one will take advantage of her as she can advocate for herself so well. I am proud that she is independent and vocal about what she wants! Phoebe is also eager to please and LOVES to be praised. In fact, she reminds her teachers that she did something well by clapping and starting to cheer for herself!
Phoebe has brought joy to each and every person that she has encountered and I am exceptionally proud of everything she has accomplished in such a short period of time.”
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Noah :: Down Syndrome

Meet Noah! Noah has an amazingly kind and sweet spirit that touches the hearts of all he meets. Noah was diagnosed with down syndrome after he was born. He spent weeks in the hospital receiving treatment to repair a hole in his heart. Noah received a mickey feeding tube because he was having difficulty eating due to low muscle tone. There was a period of time where Noah had additional health scared and whole process was just horrifying to his family. With God’s grace his family made it through the darkest of times and and are now so very happy that Noah is thriving! He is working very hard on his speech and has began saying many more words this year.
Please join us in cheering on Noah! We wish you the best in all you do!
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Photography donated by Victor Gonzalez

Marquez Family :: Huntington’s Disease

A rare diagnosis of Huntington’s disease has been given to this father and two of his sons. Huntington’s disease, also known as absence epileptic syndrome, is a genetic disease that causes progressive breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain. This breakdown results in mood changes, uncontrolled body movements, loss of coordination. These symptoms worsen over time and ultimately result in a persons inability to talk and walk independently. There is no effective treatment for the progression of this fatal disease.

The Marquez family continues to stay strong and take advantage of each an every day together. Please join Sweet Nectar Society in encouraging this family.

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Photography donated by Mckenzie Anker

Teagan :: Autism | Kylee :: Down Syndrome, Mitral valve defect

Meet Teagan and Kylee! This photo captures the beautiful love these twin sisters have for one another.
Teagan was born with Down Syndrome and Mitral Valve Defect. Teagan had an AV Canal repair at 10 weeks old but the surgery was difficult and the mitral valve was still leaking. In January 2011, Teagan, at 13 years old, had her “repaired” mitral valve replaced with a bovine valve. She is much stronger and vibrant since the second surgery. She loves swimming, basketball, school, board games, her best buddy, Aaron, and her very special Daddy that she calls “My boy, Mike”.
Kylee was recently diagnosed with Autism. This diagnoses has not stopped Kylee from achieving great goals. She is diligent in her studies and is currently going to school at Fresno State.

Join Sweet Nectar Society in encouraging these two beautiful Sweeties, Teagan and Kylee!
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Photography donated by Carina Dunmore

Sophie :: Autism

Meet Sophie! Sophia is a fun, loving, and sweet little girl. She loves to smile, dance, and run around. Sophie was diagnosed with Autism and attends speech twice a week and ABA daily. She works so incredibly hard in therapy. She is eager to learn and always tries her best.
Sophie’s mom contacted Sweet Nectar after a teacher gave her our information. She shared with us that she felt “capturing pictures of a child that can’t understand what we are asking and doesn’t have the best eye contact, is a struggle.” Our photographer Carina Dunmore was able to capture Sophie and her joyful spirit during her session. We are so thankful to have been giving this opportunity to photograph this Sweetie! 
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Photography by Carina Dunmore

Sylus :: Spina Bifida, Hydrocephalus

Meet Sylus. This handsome little guy is has such a fun personality. Sylus was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. He attends physical therapy several times a week to help him build strength so he will gain the ability to sit and walk on his own. He is making progress everyday. Sylus has also had bladder, bowel and lower extremity issues but it does not stop this Sweetie from smiling!

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Photography by Victor Gonzalez

Sophia :: acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Meet Sophia! Sophia is a precious little girl with an amazing smile and the sweetest personality. Sophia was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and treated by an amazing team at Valley Children’s. Cancer did not rob Sophia’s smiles and bubbly personality. She continues to be a light in her families lives and a hero in the hearts of many.
Please join Sweet Nectar Society in encouraging Sophia!

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Photography donated by Natalie Godinez