BY MARIA D. JAMES – Michael Sipe was a very active two year old. So when he suddenly became lethargic and stopped eating last year, his mother, Tiffany Sipe, grew concerned. “I took him the doctor three times and every time I was told he just has a cold, or it was normal for a toddler to not want to eat, but we knew something wasn’t right,” said Sipe.
A visit to Children’s National Medical Center confirmed her suspicions. Michael was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma, which is a form of cancer where tumorous growths develop from a gland above the kidneys. Unfortunately, early detection is nearly impossible because the symptoms are similar to the common cold. Once the cancer is detected it spreads fast.
Once neighbors learned about Michael’s condition they decided to come together and help the Sipe family with Johnna Schmidt leading the effort.
“A friend told me about Michael’s diagnosis. I knew that if people in the community also knew about the situation they would want to help,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt organized a community meeting at her home, which gathered 25 concerned volunteers. “It really made me grateful to live in my neighborhood,” she said.
Together, the group has coordinated a continuous series of meals for the Sipe family, using the Meal Train website. They also provide after-school care for Michael’s seven-year-old sister Aiyana, and they contribute to a GoFundMe online fundraising account.
“Fundraising was the easiest and most direct way to help,” said Schmidt.
Since Michael has fallen ill, Sipe has had to quit her job in order to move into Michael’s hospital room while he has chemotherapy. After the diagnosis Andre (Michael’s Dad), Tiffany, Aiyana, and Michael moved out of their home in order to live with family members to save money.
“We’ve been blessed with amazing neighbors,” said Sipe, who credits Schmidt with spreading awareness about her son’s illness.” Currently, Michael is going through his fourth round of chemo and is doing well.” After the final portion of chemotherapy is complete, Michael will undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.
Schmidt hopes the Sipe family won’t have to worry about money and that Michael will soon be cancer-free. “It’s also important that the family feels emotionally supported through this hard time by the community around them,” she said.
If you would like to support the Sipe Family you can do so in two ways. To volunteer to make a hot meal or provide transportation assistance, sign up on Meal Train at: www.mealtrain.com/trains/vvgkmw. To contribute a monetary donation, visit the family’s GoFundMe page at: www.gofundme.com/9pjx4sgw.