Susan Schwartz • Montreal Gazette
On the eve of her 30th birthday this month, Sophia Kadas received two pieces of family news — one profoundly sad, the other wonderful.
It made for a birthday she called “bittersweet.”
She learned on Jan. 3 that her maternal grandmother, for whom she is named, was at the end of her life. The family had gathered, tearfully, in the emergency department of Sacré Coeur Hospital.
Then just before Sophia Psarakos was wheeled up to palliative care came word that the leukemia diagnosed in September in Sophia Kadas’s two-year-old-niece, Lena Andrianakos, was in remission.
“Fate works in mysterious ways,” Sophia told The Montreal Gazette last Tuesday, the day before her grandmother’s funeral. “She knew there was a baby — and she sacrificed herself to make sure the baby would be OK. We all believe that.”
Sophia, a chartered accountant now based in New York, was in Montreal over the holidays to spend time with family. In the run-up to her birthday, she created a fundraiser for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. The Montreal Children’s Hospital, she reasoned, had provided her beloved niece “with the best possible care and support.”
“I knew I wanted to do something special for my 30th birthday,” she said, “and that I didn’t want any gifts.” Sophia’s 30th Birthday Fundraiser, launched Dec. 29 on GoFundMe, has raised more than two-thirds of its $30,000 goal.
The campaign is intended to honour Lena but also “all the amazing staff at the Montreal Children’s Hospital who have been truly outstanding throughout this hard time,” said Erin Smith, who is engaged to Sophia’s brother, Dean Kadas, in a letter to the Montreal Gazette.
Alzheimer’s disease had taken much from Sophia Psarakos in the eight years since her diagnosis but, with her two daughters looking after her and help from paid caregivers, she was able to remain in her own home, with her husband of 64 years. She died, peacefully, at Sacré Coeur about 6 a.m. on Jan. 5. She was 84.
Mandula Psarakos, one of her daughters and Lena’s maternal grandmother, described how, as she was saying goodbye to her mother, “I thanked her — because she gave up her life.”
Mandula and Lena, who calls her yia-yia, an oft-used Greek term for grandmother, are extremely close — emotionally and also geographically: They live down the street from each other in the off-island community of Vaudreuil. Hearing Lena’s diagnosis was “the worst news of my life,” Mandula said.
Lena’s parents — Christina Kadas, Sophia’s sister, is a notary; Nick Andrianakos is in construction — stepped back from work to be with her during her chemotherapy treatments at the Montreal Children’s. One of them always spent the night with her in her hospital room.
“We had to focus on our daughter,” Nick said.
Dr. Surabhi Rawal of the hospital’s Division of Hematology-Oncology, who is in charge of Lena’s treatment, said of Lena’s mother: “Christina is laser-focused when you talk to her. She is extremely calm and always asks good questions.”
Although Lena’s leukemia is considered to be in remission, which means there is “negligible residual disease,” as Rawal explained, her chemotherapy treatments will continue for two years.
In December, a high fever caused by a bloodstream infection caused Lena to be admitted to the hospital for several days — a period that coincided with both her birthday and her mother’s. The Baby Shark birthday cake went into the freezer at home, but hospital staff organized a party for Lena — and a visit by players with the Montréal Canadiens hockey team was also cheering.
“They were so sweet and Lena was so happy,” said Sophia. A photo of Lena in Christina’s arms, standing with a group of players, appeared on the nhl.com website and the visit helped to inspire Sophia to go ahead with her birthday fundraiser.
Her initial goal was $5,000 — and, as an incentive for potential donors, she promised that, on her birthday, she would cut an inch of her waist-length hair for every $500 raised to a maximum of 10 inches.
It took less than 24 hours to raise $5,000, with donors including people she’d gone to high school and university with, work colleagues and members of her sister’s husband’s family. She upped her goal to $30,000 for her 30th birthday and by Sunday more than $23,000 had been raised.
“Everyone has been extremely generous,” she said.
Just as she pledged, Sophia did cut her hair on her birthday: It’s slightly below shoulder length now, and sleek-looking. Then she headed to the hospital to bid a final goodbye to her grandmother on a day that was as bitter as it was sweet.
See full article here: THE MONTREAL GAZETTE