SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Sara Skyberg has endured more hardships at age 7 than most adults will experience in a lifetime.
And while many adults would have been left bitter by such traumatic incidents, Sara embodies, light, laughter and love everywhere she goes.
This Children’s Miracle Network Champion child can teach adults something when it comes to responding to difficult circumstances.
Sara Skyberg and her dad Ray are excited for this year’s harvest of their backyard garden. As they check the progress of their plants, Ray can’t help but make a comparison to his little fighter.
“She’s like a weed in a garden, she just continues to thrive, and no matter what you do it just keeps coming back,” Ray Skyberg said.
You could also compare Sara to the bright flower she wears in her hair. Anyone who spends just a few minutes with this vivacious 7-year-old can’t help but be immediately affected by her sparkling personality.
You’d never know that Sara’s faced some of the worst circumstances imaginable. First, at four-months-old, her biological parents abandoned her in her homeland of Nepal.
“A local farmer heard her crying. Otherwise I cannot image what would have happened, because where she was abandoned was a wooded area, where parents just give up on their sick children,” Beatrice Skyberg said.
Her adopted mother, Beatrice, explains that the caste system in that country and extreme poverty force many parents to give up their children in this way. Sara, who was very ill, ended up in an orphanage. At 2-years-old, she was placed on a list for international adoption. Beatrice and Ray Skyberg were shown her picture.
“We were just blessed we were able to adopt her and bring her here,” Ray Skyberg said.
The Skybergs knew Sara was sick, but they didn’t know how bad it was until doctors at Sanford Children’s Hospital discovered Sara was suffering from leukemia and 80 percent of her blood was infected from the cancer.
“I believe she only had a few months left if she hadn’t received treatment, based on what we were told at the hospital,” Ray Skyberg said.
After Sara’s diagnosis, Beatrice’s friends and relatives encouraged her to move to a bigger city for her daughter’s cancer care. But the Skybergs were impressed by the quality of care available right here in Sioux Falls at Sanford Children’s.
“I would think it’s better. Here you get more individual attention to each child. I told them I don’t need to move anywhere. I’m staying here,” Beatrice Skyberg said.
Little Sara underwent 2 and-a-half years of grueling cancer treatments at the castle, where Sara tells us she felt like a princess.
“When I’m in that castle I feel like, ‘Wow, this is a great place for me to get treated,'” Sara Skyberg said.
No doubt, that treatment was tougher on her parents than her.
“It was painstakingly hard to watch her after her chemo treatments. You could see it in her eyes, the agony in her eyes. It would make you come to tears every time you’d try to feed her,” Ray Skyberg said.
“She was definitely a little hero fighting cancer during the 2 and a half year treatment and also the support and love we received from Children’s Miracle Network and this community, also helped her and helped us through this tough phase,” Beatrice Skyberg said.
“What I thought was I’m never going to give up; I’m going to keep fighting until I get better,” Sara Skyberg said.
And get better she did. Today you’d never know that Sara had such a tough start to her young life.
“There’s something about the child spirit. All of our patients when they go through this, just go through it with the strength, I don’t know that adults even sometimes have. It’s their zest for life and just wanting to be a kid that keeps them going,” Dr. Kay Wagner, the Sanford Pediatric Oncologist who treated Sara, said.
“Sara is a great inspiration. Like her dad said, when you’re feeling blue and not very excited, she can immediately cheer you up, just a few minutes spending time with her and how she faced the cancer, the rigorous treatments with a smile, inspired me,” Beatrice Skyberg said.
“We believe that her great doctors and nurses that took care of her made that happen and the will of God, and her great personality. She’s got a charming happy-go-lucky personality and she’s full of energy. And that helped her survive this,” Ray Skyberg said.
And not only survive, but thrive—Sara’s excelling in school and speaks both English and her mom’s native tongue, Chinese. One of the highlights of her summer is spending a week at Sanford Children’s Camp Bring It On, for kids who’ve had cancer.
“I can do what I’ve got to do now and I’m just great,” Skyberg said.
There is a risk of the cancer reoccurring so Sara undergoes regular checkups. She is also South Dakota’s Children’s Miracle Network Champion child and traveled with her parents to the White House for the honor.