PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Two mothers brought together by horrible loss are on a mission - to bring more money to cancer research.
You’ve watched their stories, and been on their journeys with us here at NEWS CENTER. From Jacob, to Brock, to Hailey – each one fight a unique, courageous battle.
Two mothers of children who died from cancer met for the first time on Tuesday.
Tabitha Steward lost her 10-year-old daughter Hailey after a widely publicized courageous 6-year fight with leukemia. “She was the beat of our family,” Steward said. Hailey died on September 23, 2017.
Amie Marzen’s battle was quieter - and quicker. She lost her 4-year-old Madeline after just a two-month battle with a brain tumor. “She was my whole world,” Marzen said through tears. “My best friend, and everything I ever dreamed of. I always wanted a daughter.” Madeline died suddenly in her sleep on October 19, 2017. The family expected a long road of chemo ahead – but was surprised with her sudden passing. “Four months ago, if you would've told me I would be here talking about my daughter not being here, it would've [seemed] impossible,” Marzen said.
The two moms, new friends, describe themselves as “grief sisters.” Though their journeys were so different – they shared an unspeakable bond.
Both Steward and Marzen brought their daughters’ favorite stuffed animals to the meeting, without planning it.
The woman had talked online before meeting – because of another special connection. Hailey was given a butterfly quilt and bedding set as a gift. She donated that gift to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. That quilt ended up on Madeline’s bed, just days before Hailey died. Marzen says Hailey was a source of inspiration for their family. She used to tell Madeline that she could fight her cancer like Hailey did.
Just months after their daughters’ passing, both women are ready to take action. “[Hailey] was going to be a vet, and my Madeline was going to be a doctor,” Marzen explained. “They were going to change things. They might've found the cure to something. But since they can't, we have to be their voice.”
Both Tabitha and Amie are committed to funding research so other families don't have to go through what they've gone through. “Kids are supposed to be our future,” Steward said. “The only way we're going to find out how to stop this from happening to other families and other kids is research.”
The women are able to find comfort in one another. “There's a certain kind of madness what comes with losing your child. And meeting somebody who can kind of understand the madness [is healing],” said Marzen. “It is healing,” added Steward. “I don't know if I'll ever completely be healed. I can't even go a day without crying.”
The women say it’s important to them to keep their kids’ memories alive and to not stop saying their names. That’s why they’re committed to making a chance.
Tabitha and her daughter Hailey started a nonprofit together when Hailey was alive. Tabitha is also working to get a Maine license plate made. All proceeds would go to exclusively research at the Maine Children's Cancer Program.
NEWS CENTER interviewed Tara Studley, the philanthropy manager for the Maine's Children Cancer program, to learn more about the best ways to donate to research.