A Grandmother on a Mission to Make a Difference: Joyce Saunders’ Sidekick Story

It’s not easy traveling back and forth over 259 miles between Maryland and North Carolina. It’s even harder knowing that you’re going to see your youngest granddaughter in the hospital for cancer treatment.

But that’s exactly what Joyce Saunders did after her 2-year-old granddaughter Eve was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor in October 2009.

“The day we found out that Eve had cancer, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I cried for hours. As an oncology nurse, it made it harder because I knew what we were up against.”

Despite the shock of the diagnosis, Joyce made it her mission to be there for Eve. She and Eve’s other grandmother would alternate visits so one of them could watch Eve’s 3- and 4-year-old siblings, and so parents Christy and Matt could focus on Eve getting better.

It was a scary, overwhelming time for everyone, but Joyce did her best to keep everyone’s lives on track.

“When she finally finished treatment, I was so nervous before every follow-up appointment that I had ‘scanxiety’ and couldn’t settle myself down until I heard that everything was good.”

Joyce Saunders, SidekickEve, age 3, at a Make-A-Wish trip.

Then in May 2015, Eve was declared cancer-free. At 9 years old, Eve had been through things that most adults never go through.

Considering that Joyce went through everything with Eve, that made her the ultimate sidekick – and a pretty amazing grandmother.

Joyce Saunders, SidekickJoyce and her husband, Chip.

“I spent almost 38 years as an adult oncology nurse. Trust me, kids are so much stronger than adults. Kids are very resilient and don’t let this thing called cancer get in the way of them doing their thing.”

Seeing Eve as a superhero, and knowing her will to never give up, is what inspired Joyce to start raising awareness for childhood cancer and participating in CureSearch events.

She started off by participating in a few Walks, and after orthopedic issues kept her from going long distances, she volunteered for the Dolly Sods Ultimate Hike in 2015.

Joyce Saunders, SidekickJoyce, her granddaughter Eve and daughter Christy, posing with the NC State mascots at a CureSearch Walk.

Since then, Joyce has volunteered and participated in several CureSearch Walks, she’s hiked three Ultimate Hikes and this is her third year volunteering for the Hike.

Why does she keep coming back? Joyce says it’s because she meets amazing people, her family members (including Eve) are often right beside her, and she knows CureSearch is changing the odds for children with cancer. She’s confident that the cause will eventually lead to game-changing breakthroughs in the world of pediatric cancer.

Joyce Saunders, SidekickDaughter Christy, Joyce and granddaughter Natalie, at a Dolly Sods Hike.

“Raising funds for childhood cancer research is so important, and the only way we are going to be able to find a cure. Whether you believe it or not, you can and will make a difference!”

Spiderman’s Aunt May once said, “I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble.”

Joyce says her hero is Eve, as well as all the other superheroes like her granddaughter.

“Superheroes are strong and courageous and can fight the villains, which is exactly what kids do when they are fighting that villain cancer!”

Joyce Saunders, SidekickDaughter Christy, Joyce and friend, Frank Breitman.

We think that Joyce is a heroic sidekick. It was her strength that guided Eve through the difficult times, and it’s her strength that inspires CureSearch to fight children’s cancer.

Help us fight the villain cancer in our countdown to National Superhero Day by donating toward lifesaving research. Help us give superheroes like Eve a chance to live longer, better and healthier lives.

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