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A year of transitions for Poppy Sellier

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For Poppy Sellier, bringing face masks to school isn’t unusual. While many children are adapting to the use of face coverings as they return to class this fall, Poppy first packed them  — along with the standard back-to-school supplies of notebooks and pencils — when she set out for first grade at Our Lady of Hope School in Potomac Falls last fall. Only a few weeks before, she had completed chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia, diagnosed the previous December. The Catholic Herald ran a story about her journey from cancer to recovery in August 2019.

After Poppy was cleared, her mom, Charlotte Sellier, watched her 6-year-old daughter go from the hospital to school in the span of a few weeks.

“We were apprehensive in the beginning,” said Charlotte, who explained the five rounds of chemotherapy removed all of the bad cells — and the good ones too. “Chemo treatment completely wiped all of her vaccinations out of her body.” 

She emailed the parents of Poppy’s schoolmates to explain the situation and included the face masks for Poppy as a precaution. In the beginning, Poppy started with some half days to monitor her energy levels. 

“Our Lady of Hope was fantastic, they worked with us so well,” Charlotte said. “By and large it was a very smooth transition.”

The family worked through many transitions after Poppy returned from iNOVA Children’s Hospital in Fairfax in August 2019. At the hospital, Charlotte said, “You feel very safe, in a way, because literally outside the door are professionals.” After bringing Poppy home, “all of a sudden you’re in charge again.” 

Monthly doctor checkups monitored Poppy’s progress. Her energy levels were high as well. “Minus having very short hair, she was acting and looking and being like every other kid,” Charlotte said.

In January, the Sellier family had another transition, welcoming the addition of baby Remy, the fifth child in the family. Charlotte said her son helped her recover from the anxiety and strain of 2019.  “It was good to have to turn my attention to the baby. We all pivoted, and he helped move us past that spot mentally.”

But for Poppy, the effects of the chemo still linger. In her final round of therapy, the doctors discovered she has cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease, a side effect of the treatment, where the right side of Poppy’s heart doesn’t function as well. She takes two medications and has quarterly doctor appointments to monitor the condition. The progress feels sluggish. “With the heart, as with any muscle, it’s a slow-moving shift,” said Charlotte. “Cancer treatment starts immediately,” but the healing of Poppy’s heart is much more gradual.

In March, Poppy’s Make-A-Wish dream came true with a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida — just in time, too. Five days after they returned home, the resort closed due to the novel coronavirus. Along with the other schools, Our Lady of Hope pivoted to distance learning for the remainder of the school year.

Now once again, Poppy will return to school after a long hiatus. While her school is offering a full-time virtual option, the Selliers decided to send her in person, but not without considering the risk factors. Poppy’s overall health is good, said Charlotte, and she no longer considers her immune system compromised. Charlotte said she trusts the school, too, in large part due to how they handled her return last year. “They’re going to do everything by the book,” she said. 

And not least of all, “she wants to go,” said Charlotte. “I feel like I can’t keep her back … because I might have worries.” 

Recently, the family celebrated Poppy’s one-year-out-of-treatment anniversary, with neighbors cheering from their doorsteps, an ice cream truck — and two furry alpacas, rented from the local My Pet Alpaca.

The family’s first in-person Mass since the beginning of the pandemic was Aug. 9, exactly one year to the day since Poppy stood in a Wonder Woman outfit and rang a bell at the hospital signaling the completion of her treatment and the remission of the cancer. 

“It felt like (church) was a very fitting place to be,” said Charlotte. “We obviously have a lot to be grateful for.”

Bartlett can be reached at Meghan.Bartlett@catholicherald.com.

Find out more

To read about Poppy’s battle with cancer, go tocatholicherald.com/news/local_news/six-year-old_poppy_sellier_completes_treatment_for_leukemia/.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020