The dark yellow streaks appeared suddenly under Merokean Sadie Freifeld’s eyes shortly after she turned 3. Her mother, Beth Freifeld, thought her daughter had rummaged through her makeup and smothered herself with eye shadow.
Sadie’s mom tried wiping away the strange lines, but they didn’t go away. Her skin had mysteriously turned yellow, but only beneath her eyes.
Beth started to worry, and took Sadie to her pediatrician. Then to a dermatologist. Then another dermatologist. “Nobody had ever seen it,” she said of the skin discoloration. “I wasn’t going to just let go.”
It was 2010. The next 18 months shook Sadie and her family to their core.
Working with her pediatrician, the second dermatologist ordered several rounds of tests. Finally, the pediatrician recommended that Sadie be seen by Dr. Marc Weinblatt, chief of pediatric oncology and hematology at Winthrop University Medical Center in Mineola. Numerous additional tests followed before Sadie was at last diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects one in 650 children, most commonly under age 5.
According to the Mayo Clinic, neuroblastoma tumors most often develop in immature nerve cells in and around the adrenal glands, and the cancer can spread rapidly to the neck, chest, spine and abdomen.
Over a year and a half, Sadie, who is now 7, endured six rounds of chemotherapy and an unrelenting battery of radiation and immunotherapy treatments, in addition to surgery to remove her tumors. At one point she suffered from sepsis, a potentially life-threatening swelling of the major organs caused by a bacterial infection that has spread throughout the body.
Beth slept at the hospital whenever Sadie was in treatment. Her husband, Steven, who owns the Arrow Express packing and shipping company in Freeport, stayed at home with the couple’s son, Max, who is four years older than Sadie and is now a sixth-grader at Birch Elementary School in Merrick.
Sadie beat her cancer. The battle, however, was long and difficult. Four years later, she is doing fine, and is a student at Birch.