Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Sophia’s Story

Written By: Sophia, University of Michigan Dance Team, Matched with Vera

“I grew up with a brother—in relationship, not blood. He had the most radiant smile, electric personality, and contagious belly laugh. He also was the only known person born with his specific chromosomal mutation, part of which caused a fused frontal lobe, Diabetes, and Celiac. This meant that he was unable to talk, struggled to walk, and had no independence, even as he approached his teenage years. However, his incapabilities never stopped him from being the type of person we should all strive to be. Throughout my childhood, he taught me to treat all people with respect and learn about their individual stories. Everyone has something to bring. Everyone deserves to have a team behind them. This is why Team IMPACT matters so much to me, and I deeply wish that my brother would have had the opportunity to be a part of this awe-inspiring program. 

In 2022, my team – the University of Michigan Dance Team – got a Team IMPACT match, Vara. She is a spitfire, fashionista, and Tik Tok star. Some try to define her by the cancer diagnoses she has overcome, but that is just part of her story. We have danced together; we have cried together. She has overcome unthinkable obstacles, so we embrace this chance to support her in every way possible. Since my team was matched, Vara’s mom has noticed a major development in her daughter’s self-confidence, self-advocacy, kindness, and happiness. For the rest of my team, I have noticed a significant development in our empathy, thoughtfulness, creativity, and communication. To say that the sisterhood that has since developed between my whole team, including our TI match, is “life-changing” feels too cliche to describe this experience.  

My relationship with Vara further encouraged me to want to spread awareness and involvement in TI far and wide. How can we spread awareness to get more teams and children involved? How can TI become more nuanced on each team to meet the needs of each match? How can we unite TI on campuses nationwide? I yearned to make a difference in a cause I am passionate about and find a position where I could lead others to contribute, too.   

It is truly impossible to get involved with Team IMPACT and leave unchanged. Every person will change for the better. This organization brings out our common humanity by forging bonds that overcome barriers. Team IMPACT recognizes that everyone deserves to experience a team: the encouragement, love, drive, and growth.”