Team SK8 took 14-year-old Sophia Mousques for a special ride around the rink after they performed. (Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)
PROVO — Navigating cancer is never easy, especially for children. With the help of unique treatment and the generosity of Millie’s Princess Foundation and a few special performers, a teenager from Pleasant Grove is still smiling.
Sophia Mousques, 14, gets a taste of a special performance Team SK8 will put on this weekend at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo.
“It’s a party just for you! Is that so much fun?” Coach Bri Moffett told Sophia when she arrived at the arena for show rehearsal earlier this week. “So much fun!” replied Sophie.
Every year, Team SK8 organizes Skate for Cancer to raise money for families undergoing treatment. This year all proceeds will benefit Princess Sophia.
Sophia was born with Down syndrome and half a heart. “She ended up having her first heart surgery when she was 3 weeks old. She has hyperplastic left imbalance syndrome, which is just a two-chambered heart,” explains her father, Nelson Mousques.
She has been a patient at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital since birth. She spent the first six months of her life in the hospital and the first 3½ years on oxygen. Shortly afterwards, they received terrible news.
“When she was 4½ years old, she got leukemia,” Nelson said. Sophia was diagnosed with ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Her family says it was a miracle she survived the treatment, as doctors told them she would lose Sophia within the first week of chemotherapy. Sophia became infected after getting a brain infection and fasting for 21 days. In the years that followed, she contracted pneumonia dozens of times.
Claudia and Nelson Mousques share a moment with their 14-year-old daughter Sophia Mousques. They were surprised to see her cry after watching the skaters. At first they were afraid she was in pain, but Sophia told them she was happy. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)
Fortunately, the treatment was successful and Sophia and her 7½ year family enjoyed remission. “They named her cancer-free after five years,” her parents said.
“What you don’t want to hear is ‘Oh, she’s relapsed,'” Nelson said.
But on May 22, they learned that the cancer was back.
“I called Nelson and said, ‘Can you believe we’re going to see this again?'” said his wife, Claudia Mousques. “She’s been through so much, I mean, so much in her 14 years.”
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in April shows that the risk of leukemia is greater in children with Down syndrome, nearly 3% higher. Because of Sophia’s heart complications, traditional chemotherapy is not a long-term option. She will receive CAR T-cell therapy, a relatively new treatment that changes her white blood cells to better fight the cancer.
“And they manipulate the cells so they can teach them to attack the cancer,” Nelson said.
The Mousques family is hopeful that the treatment will work. “The hope is that she can be cured and that she can be happy and (without) pain,” Claudia said.
“We just pray that one more time… Persevere to be strong,” Nelson said, enjoying more days like today.
“It was super emotional to see Sophia there so happy. You know, she was smiling, enjoying the moment. It was her time, her time,” said her mother Claudia Mousques.
Sophia Mousques, 14, laughs when Team SK8 coach Bri Moffet told her this performance was just for her. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)
Claudia noticed that Sophia was crying as she watched the performance. At first she was afraid she was in pain, but she soon realized that these tears were different. “Are you crying because you are happy?” Claudia asked her. “I’m happy!” she replied.
“I think this is the first time we’ve seen her cry because she’s emotional and happy,” Nelson said.
Instead of asking “Why?” Claudia and Nelson rely on their faith in God. “Just ask for strength so we can go through this again,” she said.
The Mousques family say that Sophia has brought their family so much joy. “She just makes our lives that much better,” Claudia said. “She is such an example of strength.”
“And she will do everything she can to make you laugh and make you happy,” Nelson added. “Material things come and go, but family — that’s what matters.”
They are both honored by the generosity of Millie’s Princess Foundation and Team SK8 for hosting the event. “That means a lot to us. It’s a big problem, it’s a big problem,” Claudia said.
“You are the princess”, Claudia said to Sophia at the end of the performance.
This Saturday at 5 p.m. Skate For Cancer 2021 will be held at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo. The event is free, but all other proceeds go directly to Sophia’s family, who also lost their business during the pandemic.