Ever happy, with a positive attitude that doesn’t let anything break her spirit, little Sage Yazzie, 3 years old, is fighting retinoblastoma cancer. Last Thursday night’s Sand Devils “Hoopcoming” basketball game was dedicated to her strength.
The cancer was discovered just before Christmas when her mother, JeriLynn Dele, was looking into her daughter’s eyes as she was playing with her, and saw an unusual glint of light reflecting from inside the eye, a telltale sign of retinoblastoma.
“Sage is very active so she had no symptoms or problems,” said JeriLynn. “She didn’t have vision or coordination problems. But I looked into her eye and at a certain angle past the pupil it was white. which concerned me. It was growing from the side so you couldn’t tell there was a problem.”
JeriLynn took her to the hospital in Page to have the doctor look at Sage’s eyes. Upon the exam and testing the doctor became immediately concerned.
“I took her to the doctor here and the next day they rushed us to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The retina had already detached at that point.” Sage’s only symptom was the light spot in her right eye.
After tests and the exam the doctors reported that Sage had a very advanced stage of retinoblastoma. JeriLynn rusher her down back to Phoenix Children’s hospital immediately. They arrived in Phoenix and were told and Sage’s right eye had to be removed to prevent the cancer from spreading beyond the area.
“It happened really fast,” said JeriLynn. “She didn’t have any noticeable signs until [early] December. She wasn’t diagnosed until the day after Christmas and then within two weeks the doctor was pushing for us to act quickly on her condition because how far advanced her tumor was, so, we didn’t focus too much on Christmas.”
At that point JeriLynn was only concerned with saving their daughter’s life.
“It was a different type of Christmas this year. We were just trying to get through her treatment.”
On January 10, Sage had her right eye removed.
Now the wait on the biopsy begins to find out if chemotherapy is needed. Genetics testing will also discover how the cancer developed which is important to future treatment and diagnosis. The doctors speculated the cancer began when she was around 18 months old.
“She is so strong,” said JeriLynn. “The next day after her surgery she was up wanting to run down the hall and play with the toys.”
Last Thursday night Page High School held a “Pink Out” during their boys and girls basketball games in an effort to raise awareness, as well as money, to fight cancer. The basketball booster club raised over $300 as part of their cancer awareness effort to help the family with expenses during her treatment.
Sage’s father Adrian accepted the donation and gave a tearful thank you to everybody who helped. Sage made a shy appearance during the announcement when she heard her name being mentioned. The whole family was uplifted by the show of support from the crowd.
Boys basketball head coach Russ Skubal said, “I thought it was great what we did tonight. That is part of being part of something bigger that ourselves. Basketball is really important but it’s not as important as other things in life and we want our guys to know that.”
JeriLynn was moved by the amount of care and support the community showed to her daughter.
“I want to say that we are very thankful for the school and the boys Booster Club,” JeriLynn said, who is still adjusting to the news from a month ago. “It happened so fast. We are barely finding things out as we go along.
Sage has multiple appointments with eye specialists and she has to have a prosthetic eye made.
“Just the expense of it all is frustrating,” said JeriLynn. “We were in Phoenix for a week without money. The money is a blessing and we really appreciate the club helping her and what she is going through. Please make sure the [Booster Club and the Boys Varsity] know that.”
Sage’s family resides in the Page area and couldn’t be more grateful to the show of support from the community.
JeriLynn describes little Sage’s as a happy child and doesn’t let anything get her down. “Sage is very strong and active. She pulls people in with her positive attitude. Her spirit is really amazing.”
JeriLynn is currently putting together a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to help with expenses. In the meantime, if you’d like to donate you can send a check to JeriLynn Dele. PO Box 2461. Tuba City, AZ 86045.