Sophie’s Cancer Story

When Sophie was 13, she wrote the poem “Be Loud” and published it on her blog. It read in part:

…Be loud

And move with grace

Explode with light

Have no fear…

More about Sophie

Read on to learn about Sophie’s remarkable life.

Sophie’s poem matched her personality. From an early age, she amazed, delighted and sometimes frustrated us with her fearlessness and candor. She was funny, direct, soulful, compassionate, adventurous, creative, headstrong and, most of all, brave. Her words were those of a young teenager finding her voice and coming into her own. They were also prophetic, for one year after she wrote them, she found herself challenged beyond anything we could have imagined.

At age 14, in the fall of her 9th grade year at East Chapel Hill High School, Sophie went to see a doctor about abdominal pain. A series of tests revealed she had tumors in her stomach and liver. Diagnosed with germ-cell cancer in November 2012, Sophie underwent six rounds of chemotherapy at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. She spent months in the pediatric cancer ward, befriending nurses, doctors, fellow patients and their family members alike. Between treatments, Sophie relished the time when she could go home and resume her normal life. She determined that cancer would not define her. She would remain active and engaged in her life. Above all, she would stay true to her authentic self.

The following year was a traumatic journey punctuated with moments of bittersweet joy. Sophie turned 15. We spent weekends at the beach as a family. A thrilling surprise was in store when she met the Avett Brothers (her favorite band) backstage at a concert in Wilmington. She attended her big sister’s high school graduation.

But always, there was the hospital. High-dosage chemotherapy followed the first course of treatment for Sophie. Although the drugs and tumors zapped her of her strength, she vowed to build herself back up by walking the halls of the bone-marrow unit at UNC Hospitals. She counted each lap until she reached 700, the length of a marathon.

In the summer of 2013, despite the treatments, Sophie’s cancer returned. She died at home on August 30, 2013.

She particularly wanted to help young cancer patients stay true to their authentic selves in the face of overwhelming illness.

But Sophie’s story did not end there. Before she died, she expressed her strong desire to help adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer and their families.  She particularly wanted to help young cancer patients stay true to their authentic selves in the face of overwhelming illness. We established The Be Loud! Sophie Foundation for this purpose.

While Sophie received magnificent care at UNC, throughout her time in the hospital, she found there were aspects of her care that were not tailored to adolescents and young adult patients. For instance, she wanted someone who understood what it was like to be a young adult with cancer to talk to her about what to expect and how to tailor the hospital experience as much as possible to her needs.  She wanted someone to connect her in a genuine way with other teenagers experiencing the same thing, and she wanted to to try complementary therapies like yoga and massage, pursue the interests she had before she became ill, and make the room in which she spent so much time feel like a home away from home, with ways to stay in touch with her friends. None of this was easily available without effort and planning. While Sophie had the things she needed in the end, it was her wish that other families who may not have adequate resources be able to achieve such personalized care and a sense of normalcy for their adolescent and young adult as well.

By supporting The Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, you are helping Sophie achieve her dream.