Girl battling CF realizes others’ needs

The 7-year-old cut her hair for Locks of Love.

Young Sarah Sanders is No. 2 on her Centerville Recreational Soccer team.

She likes to ride horses, and her favorite second-grade class at Weller Elementary is gym. Sanders has met celebrities such as retired NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and TV personality Ryan Seacrest, host of “American Idol.” The 7-year-old has also been featured in a print ad that was published in the New York Times. But the reason behind the meetings and the ad is not so great: Sanders was born with cystic fibrosis.

Diagnosed at three weeks, she’s been fighting to live a normal life. It’s not so easy when you have to take about 30-40 pills per day. She also needs three breathing treatments every day for a total of one and a half hours. On top of that, she wears a vibrating vest for 30 minutes two to four times a day depending upon how she’s feeling.

“The vest is supposed to break up the mucus in her lungs,” said Jennifer Sanders, her mother. “We go to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital every six weeks for pulmonology, GI, neurology, ENT, lab work and a dietician.”

On top of all that, little Sarah is in the early stages of liver failure. But all of these difficulties have made her empathetic toward others. Last year when she attended Primary Village South, she kept noticing a teacher in the hallway who always wore a hat.

“Then one day she didn’t have a hat on. I didn’t know much about her, but a friend told me she had to take a lot of medication and lost her hair,” said Sarah said. “I had to go up and talk to her and tell her that I have to take a lot of pills, too.”

That teacher turned out to be Lisa Voss, a kindergarten teacher who had breast cancer. She was diagnosed in December of last year and underwent a double mastectomy at Kettering Hospital on June 25. She had reconstructive surgery on Aug. 22 and starts radiation therapy in September.

After Sarah met Voss, Sarah went home a little worried.

“She said, ‘I’m on a lot of medication; will I lose my hair?,’ ” said Jennifer Sanders. “We go to the hospital a lot, and she started seeing other kids who were losing their hair. Then she started asking more questions.”

Those questions led to a decision to donate her long, light brown hair to Locks of Love. So on Aug. 23 Aarika Watson, a stylist at Creating Waves Salon in Centerville, cut it off.

“Locks of Love donations aren’t super-common; it happens about a couple times a year,” Watson said. “At that age, long hair is usually like a comfort blanket. She just popped right up on the chair and was ready to go. I thought she was incredibly courageous to do that.”

Voss was also impressed by the gesture.

“I think Sarah is an amazing child to think beyond herself. You just have to have a gigantic heart to think like that at 7 years old,” Voss said. “She’s a special little girl.”

Sarah is a CF ambassador for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and that’s how she’s been featured in the print ads and met the celebrities. Her wonderful smile and boundless energy make her perfect for the role. She has one more quality that helps her deal with CF, a positive attitude.

“My hair was down to here,” said Sarah, pointing to her waist. “But I’m thinking it will grow back very fast.”

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