A Reflection by FPS Program Director, Carol Schwind
In August I received a nomination from an oncology team asking us to support a 22 year old named Aysia, who was attending college to pursue a career on Broadway when she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. Her social worker told me that Aysia was a beautiful young woman, just starting her life, and the diagnosis took away her freedom and peace of mind. But while it physically prevented her from going after her dreams, it did not break her spirit.
We accepted Aysia as an FPS Traveler, along with her parents who are her caregivers and her younger brother. She was to scheduled to travel on the FPS January Respite to Woodloch Resort in Hawley, PA, along with a handful of other families.
Aysia wrote a beautiful statement about what this respite would mean not just to her, but also to her family – they have given so much of themselves to make sure Aysia would be ok and she knew they deserved a respite just as much as she did!
In early December, I received a call from her nominator that Aysia was progressing. We knew she could not wait until January to travel, as we were not sure how many tomorrow’s she had ahead of her.
Working with my special “elves”, our Program Coordinator, Pam, and the wonderful Amy Beilman at Woodloch, we were able to quickly book the family for a weekend respite in December – right before Christmas.
Her mom, Q, called me as soon as they returned home. As we hear often, they loved Woodloch Resort and felt right at home. But what made it the most memorable was the kindness of the entire Woodloch staff, from the Kiesendahl family who owns the resort, to the servers who served the family with such care at each meal. Q shared, “We’re truly thankful, appreciative and grateful for the weekend getaway and being able to enjoy the Woodloch Resort experience during the holidays.” I spent the rest of that day reflecting on how wonderful it was that this family, after such a hard journey, was able to be pampered and supported for a weekend. I know they were able to leave the cancer behind and focus on each other – and that is a precious gift.
I stayed connected with Aysia after her respite, and in January, I wrote Q to see how Aysia was doing. I was saddened to hear the news that Aysia passed away on January 4, 2022. A beautiful woman, aspiring actress and talented singer, gone far too soon. Aysia’s mom told me that they would be directing donations to our mission in Aysia’s obituary, I hope it comforts their family to know more families will experience the beautiful gift of respite in Aysia’s loving memory and I hope the family knows that I will never forget Aysia and her beautiful spirit.
I am so thankful for our community that rallied to ensure Aysia spent some of her last days wrapped in love by her family, on a respite that felt like home. Thank you for letting me share Aysia’s story with you, and thank you for being part of the FPS family. Each day, I have the privilege of connecting with incredible families and helping them through the cancer journey – and we couldn’t provide this gift of time without you.