PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — September kicks off National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, with the goal of raising money for research and treatments.
One local non-profit devotes its energy to not only helping children with cancer — but also their families. The new executive director at Candlelighters knows first-hand the importance of that support.
Sarah Breece found out a week before she graduated from high school in Lacey, Washington that she had ovarian cancer.
“In a split second, it went from me looking forward to enjoying my college career, to summer with my friends… to essentially fighting for my life,” she said.
The cancer had taken over the inside of Breece’s stomach and her parents spent most of their days by her side at the hospital in Seattle. Meanwhile, her younger brother Stephen was just 16. He was relying on friends and family that summer, all while feeling pretty alone.
“She was my big sister, star basketball player, super strong — and seeing the toll that it took on her, it was really hard,” Stephen Yelenich explained. “It was hard, it was really challenging.”
It was a challenging time that Breece journaled through. While reading her journal entries, she happened upon one from September 3, 19 years ago — it was the day she had her very last chemo treatment.
After chemo, Breece recovered. Now, flash forward almost two decades later and she’s the executive director of Candlelighters, a non-profit with the mission of helping families fighting pediatric cancer with everything from financial assistance, to making sure all family members — including siblings like Stephen — don’t feel isolated.
“I didn’t have that connection,” Yelenich said. “I didn’t have somebody that I could really talk to, that was going through the same thing I was.”
Breece says while looking at her old journal, she wished there were entries from the day she discovered Candlelighters and the day she discovered that community.
To learn more about Candlelighters and some of their fundraising efforts to support families fighting childhood cancer, visit their website here.