Seven-year-old Sophia dies after battling cancer
OTTAWA -- A west Quebec family that shared their kids’ health challenges openly, is grieving the loss of their 7-year-old daughter Sophia.
CTV News Ottawa has covered the story of siblings Sophia and Jacob Randell, who had been battling cancer at the same time.
Sophia’s aunt Alissar Hajjar describes Sophia, “she just loved life. She was a wonderful girl.”
She passed away surrounded by family at Roger Nielson House at CHEO on Saturday.
“It was really beautiful, because they took her out on the patio, in her bed… there just happened to be a car parade for the health workers, that was going by, so my sister said ‘look, Sophia - this is for you,” said Hajjar.
Sophia had battled a form of brain cancer since she was just three-years-old.
“Appointments, Radiation, Chemo, Surgery, Relapse, CHEO was really their second home.”
Hajjar says that was Sophia’s childhood, and she faced the same challenges side by side with her brother Jacob.
“I think Jacob, you know - there’s a bit of a sense of guilt, because Jacob is 16, the last ten years he’s battled cancer and he’s really had many challenges as most people know and followed his story.”
CTV News Ottawa has followed their journey throughout the years, including in 2018 when both siblings were at CHEO, staying in beds side-by-side.
Both bounced back. Jacob continues chemo, but last year Sophia had a setback.
“We thought that things were going well, and then in 2019, she relapsed again,” said Hajjar,
Sophia ended up trying another treatment at a hospital in Montreal, which was unsuccessful.
“Just this past January, they were called in to let them know that the treatment wasn’t working, and that there was nothing else at that time they could do for them,” said Hajjar, adding the family faced the difficult news.
“My sister just stressed on [them], she had to make sure - she said to the doctors, are you sure we’ve done everything for Sophia? And they said, you’ve done everything for her as her parents, and we’ve done everything for her as doctors.”
They returned to their home in Aylmer.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if she knew she was dying - we never said it, we just kept saying - maybe tomorrow you’ll feel better.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions made the final weeks at home even more challenging for the family.
“When we tried coming over, the border between Quebec and Ottawa - it was so stressful,” said Hajjar, adding saying goodbye is even more difficult.
“Now she’s gone, and we can’t even have a funeral for her.”
The family is planning a memorial for later in the summer.
For now, neighbours and strangers have been dropping off symbols of love on the family's front lawn on Rue Lamoureux in Aylmer.
“They have such a big community here supporting them, everybody in the community is broken,” explains Hajjar.
Sophia’s mother, Liliane has been an advocate for children’s cancer research. In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, she says “so many children are fighting and there is not enough that is being done. This is why we need more funding for childhood cancer research."
Hajjar says that Sophia was always singing.
“She loved to sing, and I think that’s what we’re going to remember her by, and I’m not kidding when I tell you - she was still mumbling her songs when she couldn’t even open her eyes anymore.”