ELKHART — Sarah Steiner has looked through photos of her family in the last 15 months and what amazes her so much is the number of smiles that she sees.
“That’s not necessarily what was in my memory but it really is what’s in the pictures.”
Fifteen months ago Isaac Steiner, Sarah’s 5-year-old boy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since June 6, 2011, when Isaac was flown to IU Health Riley Hospital for Children, the Steiners faced hardship in many ways. But they also discovered the value of community support.
“What I’ve learned through this is people at the very core are really, really good, and that people want to help people,” Sarah said. “There were people who have very little money and would give us $10, and it was really humbling. They don’t want to see a child hurt.”
Last year in October a group of friends shaved their heads in show of support and to raise funds for Isaac’s treatment, one of many ways the Belmont Mennonite Church showed their support toward the Steiners.
Now the Steiners and the Belmont Mennonite Church celebrated a milestone for Isaac, who finished his treatment on Wednesday and is now a cancer survivor.
In a group effort, the church organized a get-together for the Steiners, because they felt the family deserved a party said Mandy Yoder, associate pastor.
“We wanted to let Isaac know how proud we are of him,” she said.
The church had a small reunion Saturday at 925 Oxford St., where they had an inflatable house, ladder golf and animal-shaped balloons.
A replica of a Star Wars starship Lego model, built by Isaac, was displayed inside the auditorium. Even before he was diagnosed, Isaac had a passion for building with Legos, and in the last 15 months it was part of what helped him go through his treatment.
His family — his dad, Rob Steiner, and his two brothers, 8-year-old Jonah and 2-year-old Eli— were also very supportive though they faced many difficult days, like when they moved to Bloomington for Isaac’s proton radiation therapy, or when they decided Isaac was to continue going to school during his treatment. Although he only went for half the time, Isaac passed his last year of kindergarten and is now in first grade.
“It was really hard to push him that much, because he didn’t always want to go, but I think ultimately it was definitely what was best for him.”
But the hardest day for the Steiners was when Isaac went through surgery — eight hours of waiting without knowing what the outcome would be, said Rob Steiner.
For him and for Sarah, their motivation was to see their child healthy again. For Isaac, now a 6-year-old vibrant boy, it was the motivation of survival.
“I truly think there is something inside the human spirit that can do incredibly difficult things,” said Sarah.