Far From Home – The Willard Family

On December 13th last year, Sean and Amber Willard came to Grand Rapids to meet with leading oncologist Dr. Giselle Sholler, who is Head of the Pediatric Oncology Translational Research Laboratory at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Their 5-year old daughter, Natalie, was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma in February 2016, received treatment in New York and had been in remission. When the cancer returned last year, they wanted to learn more about Dr. Sholler’s different approach to treatment.

During this stressful time, Amber and Sean stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan (RMHWM). “The house was so comfortable, and the staff and volunteers were so helpful. Having access to a full kitchen and pantry was incredibly convenient. We really felt at home, even though we were far from our own home in Arizona,” says Amber. During their time in Grand Rapids, they were able to enjoy some of the local attractions- and Natalie had fun playing at the Children’s Healing Center.

After receiving Natalie’s various scan results, and weighing their treatment options, the Willard family decided to continue treatment at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “We feel this is the best and safest option right now,” Amber noted on her blog. “Making the decisions of what treatment is best for Natalie is hard because no one knows what she will and won’t respond to.”

The Willards are like so many families who travel to Grand Rapids for the world-class medical and mental health hospitals here. And the RMHWM is proud to offer a “home-away-from- home”, at no cost, to these families in crisis.