This is the story of Rosa.

Very few people would ever describe a pediatric cancer diagnosis as a “blessing in disguise,” but that is exactly how Lourdes LaRochelle describes her daughter Rosa’s cancer diagnosis when she was just eight years old.

Rosa had been sick for several weeks, and despite several visits to the doctor’s office, they were unable to pinpoint what was ailing her. When the doctor finally told Lourdes that her little girl had been diagnosed with leukemia, she didn’t even cry. “We had struggled so long with waiting and tests that it gave me time to prepare. When the doctor told me, I was like, ‘ok, what do we do now?’ A part of me thought that at least we know what it is now, so we know what to do.”

Lourdes says one of the areas Rosa has struggled with most following her cancer diagnosis is her lack of control to change her situation. Looking back, Rosa years taken away from her childhood.

Lourdes reflects that Camp Firefly was the first time Rosa had been away from her family. Rosa had a great time at camp and allowed her to enjoy the innocence of childhood that so many families take for granted. Lourdes says camp will always hold a special place in Rosa’s heart and she looks forward to it each year.

When asked about what advice she would share with other families with children faced with cancer, Lourdes says to take all the help that is offered. “This is not the time to say ‘I can do everything.’ Have faith and continue on. Take it one day at a time.”

As for Rosa, she is now 16 years old! When asked to look back on her journey she wrote, “I was diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in third grade when I was 8 years old. I was so young at the time, that when the diagnosis finally came, I didn’t even really understand what cancer was. I remember being confused about what it meant for me. 

My treatment, chemotherapy, lasted until the end of my fifth-grade year; I took my last chemo pill the day after my 11th birthday. The side effects of chemotherapy are pretty harsh. I remember feeling very worn out and tired most of the time. The few days directly after my treatments were the worst. I’d feel very sick afterward. 

My favorite thing about Candlelighters is the opportunities that they provide for kids diagnosed with cancer. I missed out on a lot during the years I was sick. I wasn’t able to go out a lot, I missed school, and I wasn’t able to keep up socially. With the activities, such as painting sessions, and the summer camps that Candlelighters held, I was able to feel less alone and still be able to have fun, even if I was going through a hard time. Being able to meet and interact with other kids who understood and being able to make awesome childhood memories, even if I was still going through treatment, really helped with my mental health during that time.”