Chris Sullivan is a father. He is a father who experienced the worst pain a father can experience. He lost his baby daughter, Chloe, to cancer. He lost his baby daughter before she ever had a chance to live life.
From the moment Chloe gained her angel wings, Chris's life and his family's life changed forever. Along with his wife and Chloe's mother, Michelle, Chris started Fight Like Our Kids. He dedicated himself to fighting for kids who battle cancer. And through Fight Like Our Kids, their family has met many people, too many people, who can identify with their pain.
With unfathomable pain in their hearts, Chris and Michelle were inspired to create a Bereaved Families Program with Fight Like Our Kids and Campaign One At A Time to help others who had also lost children to cancer.
“Our names are Chris and Michelle. We created this Bereaved Families program because when we lost our 1 and a half year old daughter, Chloe, our world changed forever. We became part of this club that no parent ever wants to be in, nor should they ever have to be in.
We entered the childhood cancer community on October 6th, 2020 when Chloe was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. An adult cancer that is very aggressive and treated very aggressively with harsh chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and in worst cases, like Chloe’s, a bone marrow transplant. I, Chloe’s mother, started posting our experience and sharing Chloe’s story on Instagram to keep our friends and families updated on her since they were not able to visit her in the hospital due to covid restrictions. Chloe’s story captured the hearts of over 20,000 followers on Instagram and over 70,000 followers on Tiktok. We were connected with other families that were also going through the same nightmare with their children and we felt an immediate bond with anyone that understood this cruel side of the world. You never believe that your child could get cancer… until they do.
Chloe started chemo and other treatment immediately and reached remission in November 2020 but quickly relapsed with disease in her skin called leukemia cutis in December. It was decided that because she relapsed during treatment so quickly she would need a bone marrow transplant to try to cure her of her cancer. After another round of chemo, she was in remission again in January 2021 and was scheduled for her bone marrow transplant using her father as her donor on February 18th, 2021. Her new cells engrafted in her bone marrow within 2 weeks and she was 100% her donor’s cells, which meant that the transplant had worked and she was healing! When her doctors began talking about finally letting her go home at the end of March, we thought we had done it! She beat cancer and we could take her home to be a complete family again. She could see her older brother and sister who she had not seen in over 5 months at the time, and we would get to bring her and her new baby brother home for the first time since he was born.
Before we ever got to take her out of that hospital though, Chloe was struck with a viral infection in her brain that took over all involuntary and regulatory functions. She was intubated on March 24th, 2021 and was never able to wake up again. We made the heartbreaking decision to take her home on May 6th, 2021 to pass away in our arms, in her home, surrounded by family. It had been exactly 7 months since any of her family members had last seen her. The following months were very hard to say the least. We only found comfort in being together with family. Chloe’s baby brother was only 5 months old and still needed a lot of caring-for, so we were forced to continue going. For him, and for our older children.
In October 2021, Chris came across an advertisement for the RiSE Lantern Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The world’s largest sky lantern release. We went with our children and my parents, as my mom likely would not have very many more opportunities to travel since she was battling lung cancer herself. We wanted to go as a family to honor Chloe’s memory. The RiSE Festival was the most magical, breathtaking and emotional experience we had ever been to. Everything was so well thought out. From the timing of our arrival and the energetic music on the stage, to the food all around the venue and the perfectly synchronized release of the thousands of lanterns all around us. We knew we had to share this unforgettable experience with other bereaved families. Nothing can heal our hearts completely but this absolutely helped us to feel closer to our Chloe and we knew it would help others.
Chris reached out to Brodi, the founder of Campaign One at a Time and pitched his idea to start a program for the families that have lost their children and were no longer getting the same support as when their child was still battling for their lives. Bereaved families are often left feeling forgotten at times and like they no longer fit into the childhood cancer communities because their child with cancer is no longer here with them. We understand that type of pain, and only those who have gone through the same type of loss will ever fully understand.
That is why this Bereaved Families Retreat is so important to us. We want to bring these families together and show them that their children will never be forgotten! We will always keep fighting for them, for more funding, for more awareness, and we will forever remember their children and the fight that they never should have had to fight in the first place.”
On October 7, 2022 - 10 families that had lost children to cancer, came together at the Rise festival to celebrate the lives of those who were no longer with them. They all came together to support one another. They came together to cry, grieve, hug, and hold each other up.
Many of those who attended the retreat said the same thing... They felt alone for so long. Until they were all together. Nothing needed to be said or done. They no longer felt so alone.