Finding Peace at Family House

by Arleen Bandarrae

Published on September 6, 2023

Photo of Stryder

Family House made a world of difference to Shelby and her family. Shelby’s 4-year-old son Stryder was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in January 2022. Since then, Shelby’s family has come from Lodi, California to stay at Family House while Stryder receives treatment at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

“Having people who truly care about me, my child, and our entire family makes a world of difference while going through something so difficult,” said Shelby. She was terrified when she learned that her then 2-year-old had cancer, and that his treatment would require them to be away from home for weeks or months at a time. Family House helped relieve some of her fear, and over time, she’s come to count on the people of Family House to help them get through the toughest times.

“We have stayed at Family House too many times to count now,” said Shelby. “Truly, it’s our home away from home.”

Stryder’s Journey

Photo of Stryder

Nearly two years ago, Stryder was hospitalized for urgent care after rapidly losing weight and becoming extremely weak. Doctors at UC Davis Children’s Hospital discovered several tumors in his abdomen. After further testing, Stryder was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that develops in nerve tissue and most commonly affects children under age 5.

Shelby and her family learned that Stryder’s treatment plan would include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation, and that some of his treatment would be performed by doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, which would require Stryder to be away from home for up to several months at a time.

“You have so much being thrown at you. The worry of what is to come for your child and the added stress of how you are going to make it all work amid treatment is terrifying,” said Shelby.

“When we learned about Family House, a weight was lifted off our chest. We didn’t have the financial burden of securing housing, and we could stay together in a safe space close to the hospital.”

Finding Peace at Family House

Photo of Stryder

From day one, Family House welcomed Stryder’s family—mom Shelby, dad Cory, and 1-year-old baby sister Mary—with open arms. Their initial stay at Family House lasted nearly three months. Stryder was hospitalized during most of that time. Mary missed her brother dearly and was sad and lonely. Her big brother is her entire world. She missed being at home with him, playing hide-and-seek, building ginormous castles, and playing in their toy kitchen.

At Family House, hospitality team members Diana and Vanessa befriended Mary and helped her feel better by playing with her and taking her to Fozzy’s toy room for a special treat.

When Stryder was discharged from the hospital, he too got to know and love Family House. During his stay, Stryder and Mary attended last year’s Halloween party together. Stryder ran around making many new friends with his little sister tagging right alongside. “It was definitely one of his best nights,” Shelby remembered fondly.

The last time Stryder stepped in the door at Family House he ran to say hello to everyone. He was so excited he jumped into Monica’s arms at the front desk and gave her a big hug.

“These people really made an impact on my children, and I could not be more grateful for the love they’ve shown both of my babies,” said Shelby.

“Family House is a place where we can find peace. It is a safe place for our child to run and play while he’s not in the hospital, and it’s a place where siblings are thoughtfully included every step of the way,” said Shelby. “The staff at Family House really did become part of our extended family. I cannot tell you the number of times I cried to Vanessa or Diana [Family House staff members] when things were really rough. Every time we come back, everyone welcomes us with open arms, warm hugs, and lots of smiles.”

Today, Stryder continues his treatment at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Earlier this month, Stryder’s family stayed at Family House for the week, with plans to visit again for another treatment in October.

“Family House is more than just a place to stay. It is a place of love and friendship, where you can break down and they are right there to help you through it,” said Shelby. “Stryder is still fighting and fighting hard. Although we don’t know what comes after this next treatment, if we find ourselves back at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, we know that Family House will always be our safe place, our home away from home.”

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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