The Grace Schneider Family
The Grace Schneider Family Story

Grace Schneider is a lively and energetic girl who hopes to become a teacher when she grows up. She loves music, dancing, and spending time with her large family. Grace is like many other girls her age, but just after turning five, she began to have unexplained pains in her legs. After several weeks of fevers and aches, Grace’s pediatrician ordered bloodwork. As if to signal the stress of the situation, Grace’s bloodwork was lost and had to be redrawn. “Cancer hadn’t even crossed my mind at this point,” remembered Grace’s mom Angela. Finally, the Schneider family was awoken by a midnight call from the lab; they had found Grace’s bloodwork and wanted her to get to the hospital right away. With multiple hospitals to choose from, the family opted to head to Hershey that night, and everything became a devastating whirlwind until Grace was diagnosed with B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on Friday, September 18th, 2020.

That first weekend at Hershey was where the Schneider family’s Four Diamonds journey began. The hospital was already sparsely occupied due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as staff geared down for the weekend, the first few people to reach out to the family were all sponsored by Four Diamonds, including their social worker Greg, who offered them the opportunity to have all their medical expenses paid by becoming a Four Diamonds family. “I honestly thought it was a scam,” admitted Angela, but they followed through with the program anyways, explaining, “you would give your left leg for your child.”

Despite their initial impression, the Schneider family quickly experienced the depth of Four Diamonds and were grateful for the additional support system as they moved forward to navigate Grace’s cancer treatment. “Leukemia is a well-understood pediatric cancer,” Angela explained, “I felt like if we were to be dealt this hand, at least we had been dealt a royal flush.”

Unfortunately, things were not what they had seemed. The staff at Hershey did a routine genetic test on Grace’s cancerous cells to determine whether they would be favorable to treatment, which took several weeks to return results. Just as the Schneiders felt like they were getting back on their feet, they learned that Grace had an unfavorable genetic abnormality known as iAMP21. “It felt like being re-diagnosed,” said Angela, who emphasized that iAMP21 was only discovered in 2003. Research funds for iAMP21 were initially minimal as the abnormality was rare, but because of funding from organizations like Four Diamonds, there have been studies on it that have helped inform the treatment for Grace and others.

After discovering this complication, Grace began front-line treatment. Her family was grateful that she had very minimal side effects during her time of chemo. Grace’s front-line treatment was long and intensive due to her genetic abnormality. For a full eleven months, the life of the Schneider family revolved around the process.

“It is a really hard thing when your child is going through a severe illness and you still have to be a functional human being,” Angela explained, “I still have another child to support, and I can’t just not pay my mortgage because my child is sick. People don’t understand that life still has to go on, and Four Diamonds helps with that.”

As of August 2022, Grace is approaching two years since her diagnosis and has been in maintenance for about a year! She is scheduled to end treatment on January 14th, 2023. In the meantime, the Schneider family enjoys days spent at their cabin, at the beach, and with extended family. Angela is extremely grateful for the endless list of family members and friends who have helped the family throughout Grace’s cancer journey. The family was not able to attend THON 2022 as Grace was in active treatment, but they loved watching the livestream and were grateful for their paired org, Delta Sigma Pi. They’ve also had fun participating in some local Mini-THONs.

Through everything, Grace has carried herself as a model of strength. Her family admires how she has handled her journey in stride and with so much confidence. Angela recalled when it became time to shave Grace’s hair off. That day, she was feeling emotional, but Grace’s response to the situation was nonchalant: “Just cut it off, Mom. It’s just hair, it will grow back.” Angela is continuously amazed by this attitude from her daughter. “She is truly one of the strongest people you could ever encounter.”