Photo by Madoline Markham.
Sean Fredella gathers with friends from Mountain Brook Elementary after returning to Birmingham from receiving cancer treatments in Houston.
Blue bows lined mailboxes around Mountain Brook in December to welcome home Sean Fredella—a warrior with an army behind him.
The 11 year old has battled cancer since age two and this past year has been fighting a rare tumor. For the past several months he has taken pain in stride while receiving treatments in Houston.
“I can’t believe how strong he’s been through it all,” said his mom, Nell. “Still, the unknowns, the fear, and seeing the pain in Sean’s eyes and knowing how sick he is from all the treatments is indescribable.”
Before Sean returned home from Houston for Christmas, Laura Niemann and daughters Hannah and Courtney made and sold blue bows and encouraged the community to hang them to show their support for Sean. All proceeds from the bows went to Sean’s medical expenses.
“My kids wanted to do this to show Sean encouragement when he got home,” Niemann said.
Others from the community pitched in throughout the month to make bows. Smith’s Variety, The Scribbler and The Blue Willow all sold the bows. Some sold for as much as $40 and $50 when people were told that the money was going to the Fredella family.
Hannah and Courtney Niemann came up with the idea to sell blue bows to support their friend Sean Fredella. Photo courtesy of Laura Niemann.
The church family at St. Francis Xavier as well as the students, parents and faculty at Mountain Brook schools have all been incredible, according to Nell.
Emotions grew in her voice as she described all the things they have done for their family.
People constantly bring breakfast and dinner. At one point, an acquaintance from church organized a group to run errands for the Fredella family.
“For months, I never went to Walmart or the grocery story,” she said. People would find out what the Fredellas needed, and they handled it.
“I am humbled when I think of all the kindness shown to our family,” she said. “There are so many amazing angels in our lives.”
Mountain Brook Elementary fifth graders welcomed back Sean in December. Photo by Madoline Markham.
Sean was first diagnosed with leukemia before he reached his third birthday. The cancer was treatable and he responded well to the two and half years of treatment. He then had a central nervous system relapse and endured two more years of treatment.
On the last day of treatment, scans revealed that the cancer was back. This time it was throughout his body and in his bone marrow, which required him to have a transplant. Sean’s older brother, Ryan, was the bone marrow donor.
After the transplant battle, he did well and his life returned to normal for about three years. He played guitar, basketball, and lacrosse and kept up with schoolwork.
Then in the fall of 2011, Sean started getting nosebleeds and swollen glands. Tests revealed that cancer was back and this time it was Esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of tumor that’s not normally seen in children.
“Children’s Hospital in Birmingham has always been amazing, and we received outstanding medical care here and miss being at Children’s,” Nell said. “But now, with an extremely rare adult tumor, we felt that it made sense to go to the world’s largest cancer center, MD Anderson. We hope and pray that they have had a lot of experience with this type of cancer.”
The road has also been long and difficult for her husband, Todd, and her other two sons, Patrick, 17, and Ryan, 15, but they are holding strong with the support of their family and community.
“Todd is an amazing husband. He’s a rock,” said Nell. “He holds down the fort when Sean and I are in Houston. He helps keep things as normal as possible for the other two boys. My mom, Joanna Boland, has been wonderful too.”
The fight is not over yet for Sean. After these rounds of chemotherapy, he will require surgery to remove the tumor and further radiation and possibly more chemo before this battle is won.
Sean’s heros are Spiderman and Superman, but they could learn something about strength from this young warrior.
To keep up with Sean, visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/seanfredella.