Before Dying of Cancer, 6 Y/O Girl Leaves, Hides Hundreds of Notes for Family to Find
Feb 24, 2017 09:54 AM EST
After six-year-old Elena died of cancer, her family found hundreds of notes she’d written and hidden all over their home, reminding her grieving loved ones of how much she loved them.
Elena was diagnosed with an inoperable rare form of brain cancer in 2006, and her parents, Keith and Brooke Desserich, were told the little girl had just 275 days to live.
Instead of telling their daughter of her diagnosis, her parents vowed to make her short life as special and fulfilled as possible.
“We wanted to protect her so we never told her she might not make it,” he explains. “We didn’t want to focus on the cancer, we wanted to focus on being a family and doing all the things that Elena wanted to do.”
The little girl lived for 10 months after her diagnosis, and died in August 2007. Several days after her death, her grieving family began finding notes all over the house – hundreds of them, reminding her family of her love for them. The notes, some drawings, some messages, were tucked away all over the house and addressed to her parents and little sister, Grace.
While Keith and Brooke didn’t tell Elena her prognosis, they believe that she knew it – and left behind a little piece of herself to comfort her family: “I think the notes were her way of telling us that everything would be OK. It feels like a hug from her every time we find one,” Brooke said.
Two years after Elena’s death, the Desserich family decided to compile all of the notes they’d found and create a book called Notes Left Behind. The book became a New York Times bestseller, and one of Elena’s paintings, which she titled I love You, was displayed at the Cincinnati Art Museum next to a work by Pablo Picasso.
The Desserichs have also created a foundation to raise money to find a cure for pediatric brain cancer — all of it inspired by the little notes their precious daughter left behind. Today, Keith serves as the Chairman of the Board for the foundation – The Cure Starts Now.
“I love meeting the children we fight for,” he said. “For me it is like spending time with Elena once more. I also love seeing the enthusiasm and passion that researchers have for the homerun cure. There’s nothing better than to see both of these things come together in a total cure.”