Two and half years ago Brenda and Dorin Muntean and their daughter, Bella, had all the optimism in the world. These proud parents celebrated their daughter at every turn. Bella was a straight A student who played the flute and was a dancer. And she dreamt of attending an Ivy League college.
Bella’s heart and faith were huge. She spent many hours each month giving back to others through community service. She delivered gift bags to the Shriners Hospital and served meals at a soup kitchen. And notably while in 5th grade she personally raised more than $600 for another elementary school student to help fund his Make-A-Wish trip to Legoland.
However, everything changed for Bella and her family in late 2015 when she noticed a lump on her leg. Initially the doctors thought it was a genetic condition. But when she started to experience severe chest pain a few short months later, the doctors dug deeper. On January 16, 2016 reality hit – Bella was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She was soon confined to a wheelchair and started 11 months of chemotherapy. This superhero was grounded!
Each year in the United States an estimated 15,780 children are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is the number one killer of children in our country. And regrettably only 4% of federal cancer research funding is devoted to childhood cancers.
As you might imagine when a child is diagnosed their entire family is immediately thrown into crisis mode. Parents, like Brenda and Dorin, start the cancer journey by becoming laser focused on finding the best care possible for their child. Soon they are forced to face all of the other burdens that come along with this dreadful diagnosis.
Instead of enjoying their past life of dance recitals, music performances and volunteering, the Muntean’s days were now filled with medical appointments, cancer treatments, surgical procedures and hospital stays. They were often on the road traveling to various cancer treatment centers to receive the best care for Bella’s rare diagnosis.
“It really was overwhelming. However in June 2016 a huge burden was lifted from our family when our social worker introduced us to Laura Allen, the executive director of Children’s Cancer Partners.” explained Brenda.
Fortunately in North and South Carolina families have an amazing resource available to them. Children’s Cancer Partners is a nonprofit based in Spartanburg whose mission is to provide comprehensive support and loving compassion to families whose children are battling cancer. The organization’s caring staff and volunteers offer four areas of support: Financial Support, Family Assistance, Family Connections and Camp Victory.
The financial impact of cancer is staggering. 83.5% of families with a child with cancer will experience some level of financial hardship. 75.7% of families will have at least one parent who needs to cut back on work or stop working all together. Understanding these financial burdens Children’s Cancer Partners wants to ensure that families have the financial resources to get their child to the most appropriate care possible whether it is here in the Carolinas or a more specialized program elsewhere. Through the generous support of their donors they provide families with funds for travel, lodging and meals.
The Cleveland Clinic offered the best treatment for Bella’s cancer. With the help of Children’s Cancer Partners, Brenda, Dorin and Bella were able to make trips to Cleveland together. “They made all of our arrangements – hotels, food and transportation. We kept our receipts and they reimbursed us. They also made sure that someone was waiting for us with a wheelchair at every turn. We didn’t have to worry about a thing and could just focus on Bella’s care, ” said Brenda.
Throughout the year Children’s Cancer Partners hosts events and activities to connect families and their children with others who are battling cancer. During these times together, parents receive support while children build friendships with their peers. Brenda has made many friends through Children’s Cancer Partners. They talk regularly and offer each other support.
While Bella’s cancer diagnosis has altered the course of the Muntean’s life. Some things have not changed. Bella’s faith is as strong as ever and she continues to give back to others. In 2017 Bella and Brenda started their own nonprofit, Angels of Hope. Each month they deliver angel-decorated pillowcases filled with goodies to other cancer patients.
And on a daily basis Bella posts images on her Instagram page – @TheNookDolls. With more than 20,000 followers her page is filled with her own creative photos of American Girl dolls and the details of her cancer journey. And once again, Bella is thinking of others. She has used her popular social media page to raise money to buy American Girl dolls for the Cleveland Clinic, Children’s Cancer Partners and the Children’s Hospital.
Sadly as I finish this article this amazing superhero’s condition has changed and she has been placed in hospice care. On March 11 many, many of her local supporters gathered at Covenant United Methodist Church to “literally swarm the gates of heaven” on behalf of Bella. They started a hashtag, #MiracleforBella, which is trending and prayer groups up and down the East Coast have formed. Please keep this dear family in your thoughts and prayers.
For more information about Children’s Cancer Partners visit www.childrenscancerpartners.org or call 864-582-0673.