Family Stories: A Powerful Mother-Daughter Bond

by Arleen Bandarrae

Published on May 17, 2023

Photo of Hiedi and her beloved daughter Natassia.

Like many pre-teens, Natassia loves spending time with friends. When she’s at Family House, she stays connected to friends through Facetime calls—thanks to the new iPhone she got for her 12th birthday—and by playing online games, like Roblox, together with friends.

Since December, she and her mom have been traveling from their home in Lodi, California, to stay at Family House for two weeks every month while she receives care at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

“Natassia was diagnosed in May of 2021 with Ewing sarcoma cancer,” said Hiedi, Natassia’s mom. “We underwent 14 cycles of chemotherapy, 31 days of radiation, and surgery to remove the tumor, which also removed part of her left lung and two ribs.” Hiedi also shared that after completing treatment in April of 2022, Natassia’s cancer returned later that year.

“It was a hard pill to swallow, but she is a fighter and so strong. She will beat it again, hopefully for good,” said Hiedi.

When Hiedi learned that Natassia was eligible for a trial at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, she felt stressed because she wasn’t sure how they would be able to stay in San Francisco.

“Family House allowed me to breathe,” recalled Hiedi. “Family House took a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Photo of Hiedi and her beloved daughter Natassia

Building Unbreakable Bonds to Conquer the Most Difficult Times

Hiedi and Natassia cherish their time together, despite the difficulty of leaving their family. Hiedi’s husband, Stephen, stays home to be close to his job, along with their 3-year-old son Ivan. When she’s away, Natassia misses her little brother dearly. She also misses cuddling with Sukee, one of two cats they adopted last year. Sukee was skittish of everyone and everything, until she met Natassia. The two developed an instant connection and have been inseparable since.

When they arrive at Family House, Hiedi makes special plans the first couple of days when Natassia feels well. Recent adventures included the Exploratorium, the beach, and Pier 39. Back home in Lodi, everything is at least a 10-minute drive, so it’s fun for them to walk around and take in the sights and sounds in San Francisco. Although Hiedi admits she could use a little less city sound at night—she’s had a hard time sleeping without the comforting quiet and familiar song of the crickets.

One of their most treasured memories in San Francisco is going to see the musical Dear Evan Hansen at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets to the theater were generously donated by longtime Family House supporters.

“When Paul gave us the tickets, I had never been to a Broadway show. It was amazing to experience it with my daughter,” said Hiedi.

Last week, the two packed their bags and returned home. Natassia slipped back into her 6th grade classroom, eager to enjoy the excitement of the last week of school. In school, her favorite subject is math. She’s also passionate about anime, a popular style of animation from Japan, and she enjoys drawing vibrant and colorful anime-inspired artwork. Looking ahead, Natassia is very excited to start middle school next year, at a new school that she’ll attend with her cousin for the first time.

Soon Hiedi and Natassia will be back at Family House for Natassia’s next scheduled treatment, and they’re so grateful to have a place to stay near the hospital that feels like home.

“It’s the thoughtful gifts that lift everyone’s spirit, the friendly staff, and full access to the kitchen,” said Hiedi.

“When I think of Family House, my heart is full of gratitude for all they have done for us. I cannot say thank you enough.”

Family House San Francisco is an independent non-profit organization led by a professional staff and board of directors dedicated to providing residential services free of charge to qualifying families. We rely solely on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations, and foundations.

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