Florence Flips Cancer Into a Communal Victory
Fall 2023 has been a season full of good news, positivity and gratitude for Eugenia and Rich, whose daughter Florence battled cancer when she was 2 years old. The first bit of good news came when Florence’s quarterly MRI results were normal.
“Those results mean going forward, Florence will only need MRIs every six months for the next two years,” Eugenia explains.
The second bit of good news came when the Make-A-Wish Foundation reached out to grant Florence, now 5, a wish. A trip to Disneyland? No. Tickets to a Taylor Swift concert? Think again.
“Her wish is to give back to her school,” Eugenia says, proudly. “Her school was a very meaningful, healing place for us after her cancer treatment, after COVID.”
How is it that a 5-year-old can be so thoughtful about her community? It’s likely because she has seen first-hand how her community helped her family while she was an inpatient at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Two months shy of her second birthday and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florence was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a rapidly growing brain tumor that requires swift and aggressive medical intervention. Florence spent the next six months at CHLA, enduring six rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
“We truly saw the best in humanity,” says Eugenia, who was four months pregnant with her son, Truman, when Florence was sick. “Our pandemic story is about the kindness of strangers and our caregivers—they were kind to Florence and our entire family while we were going through this harrowing journey.”
“Community means so much to my husband and me and I think Florence is the way she is because when she was sick, our community rallied around us and we were shown so much abundance,” Eugenia says. “Our friends set up a Go Fund Me to alleviate some of our financial pressures. They set up meal trains, so we had hot meals delivered to our door.”
One of Florence’s favorite places to visit is the Muddy Boot Farm at the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, where kids can dig, plant, and help grow farm-to-table foods. Florence’s wish was to have a similar outdoor area at the co-op school she and Truman, now 2, attend. Make-A-Wish and Kidspace are collaborating to make Florence’s wish a reality.
In the years since her treatment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Florence has blossomed into an energetic youngster who loves ballet class, movie nights with friends, swimming and running. In fact, she’s starting to follow in her parents’ footsteps.
On October 1, 2023, Eugenia and Rich competed in the Malibu Triathlon, which raises funds for pediatric cancer research at CHLA (Eugenia competed in 2022). Not wanting to miss out, Florence and Truman participated in the triathlon’s Tot Trot, and proudly sported their first medals.
“What happened to her could have defined us for the rest of our lives,” Eugenia says. “But the opportunity to participate in the triathlon and to share our story—it’s very healing and it helps us rewrite what cancer means in our lives. We are just so grateful.”