Party celebrates teen's win over cancer

Year-long journey of chemo, surgery ends with night of rejoicing, thanking supporters

The patio outside The Community House was a cloud of pink Saturday night, as friends and family gathered to celebrate Hinsdale teenager Savannah Wood and her victory over osteosarcoma.

Clad in all shades of Savannah's signature color, the crowd feasted on 13-year-old Savannah's favorite food and danced to her favorite music, all under a canopy of pink lights.

Party planner Susan Cordogan, a Hinsdale resident and owner of Big City Events, decided the day before the event that more decor was needed. She headed to the Woods' home just a few blocks away and took down the pink lights that had decorated their house throughout Savannah's treatment.

"It was almost like a rite of passage," Cordogan said.

With her battle behind her, Savannah didn't need them anymore.

Savannah's unexpected journey began last Labor Day when, while inner tubing with her family, her right knee began to bother her. Not long after, an X-ray revealed what was later confirmed to be osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that most commonly forms in children and young adults. Savannah started chemotherapy almost immediately.

After months of chemo, 100 nights spent in the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital and a major surgery to replace bones in her leg, Savannah rang the bell marking the end of her treatment on June 23.

Savannah didn't take time to eat the tacos that she had requested for her end-of-treatment party. She was too busy dancing the night away. But she did take time to step to the microphone to offer thanks to all those in attendance and to recognize a few very special people for the support over the last year.

She thanked her mom and dad, brothers Torsten and Smith, grandpa Steve Patzer, nanny Julia Zaborowska and friends Kendall Miller and Laine Morris.

"Laine danced in the rain with me," she said, referring to a favorite quote from British writer Vivian Greene: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain."

Savannah and her parents, Stuart and Stacia, said the party was both a celebration and a gesture of thanks to everyone who helped them through the last year. Friends, family, neighbors, teachers, local businesses and organizations all came together to help in ways large and small to remind the whole family that Savannah was and is "Savannah Strong."

"It was our way to recognize, celebrate and thank our friends and the entire community for rallying around her and being there for our family," Stacia said.

After cannons filled the air and the dance floor with pink confetti, Savannah's guests formed a large circle and danced the final song arm in arm in what Cordogan said felt like a collective sigh of relief.

Despite the many hard times endured over the last year, Savannah said she also made some lifelong memories, like the last-minute trip to Florida when her surgery was unexpectedly postponed, and the spring break spent in Chicago with her dad. She said she'll always remember watching the Christmas light parade from her window at Lurie and sharing her skincare regimen with her team of nurses. Her new bedroom, created in her favorite color by Special Spaces and Normandy Builders, is something Savannah said she'll never forget. And of course, she'll always remember the love and support she felt every step of the way.

Savannah is back in class at Hinsdale Middle School and she's resumed her spot as a Falcon cheerleader. The eighth-grader said she appreciates every single day that she's able to spend with the people she loves, doing the things she loves to do.

But she's looking forward to one day in particular. Make a Wish is fulfilling Savannah's wish to attend the Grammy awards.

"I love an excuse to get a new dress," Savannah said.

Chances are, it will be pink.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean