Team SK8 took 14-year-old Sophia Mousques for a special ride around the ice rink after they performed. (Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)
PROVO — Navigating cancer is never easy, especially for children. With the help of a unique treatment and the generosity of Millie’s Princess Foundation and a few special performers, one Pleasant Grove teen is still smiling.
Sophia Mousques, 14, is getting a sneak peek of a special performance that Team SK8 will put on this weekend at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo.
“It’s a party just for you! Is that so fun?” coach Bri Moffett told Sophia when she arrived to the arena earlier this week for show rehearsal. “So fun!” Sophia replied.
Each year Team SK8 hosts Skate for Cancer to raise funds for families going through treatment. This year all the proceeds will benefit Princess Sophia.
Sophia was born with Down syndrome and half a heart. “She ended up having her first heart surgery at 3 weeks old. She has hyperplastic left imbalance syndrome which is only two-chamber heart,” her father, Nelson Mousques, explained.
She’s been a patient at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital since she was born. She spent the first six months of her life in the hospital and the first 3½ years on oxygen. Shortly after that, they were given devastating news.
“At 4½ years old she got leukemia,” Nelson said. Sophia was diagnosed with A.L.L., acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Her family says it was a miracle that she survived the treatment, since doctors told them they might lose Sophia in just the first week of chemotherapy. Sophia went septic after she developed a brain infection and had to fast for 21 days. In the years following, she developed pneumonia dozens of times.
Fortunately the treatment was successful and Sophia and her family enjoyed 7½ years in remission. “They called her cancer-free after five years,” her parents said.
“The thing you don’t want to hear is ‘Oh, she relapsed,'” Nelson said.
But on May 22 they learned the cancer was back.
“I called Nelson and said ‘Can you believe that we are going to be going through this again?'” his wife, Claudia Mousques, said. “She already went through so much, I mean, so much in her 14 years.”
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in April shows 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 altering her white blood cells to better fight the cancer.
“And they kind of engineer the cells so they can teach them to attack the cancer,” Nelson said.
The Mousques family is hopeful the treatment will work. “The hope is that she can be cured and that she can be happy and (in) no pain,” Claudia said.
“We’re just praying that she will, one more time… hold on to be strong,” Nelson said, to enjoy more days like today.
“It was super emotional and seeing Sophia so happy there. You know, she was laughing, enjoying the moment. It was her time, her time,” her mother Claudia Mousques said.
Claudia noticed Sophia was crying while watching the performance. At first, she was worried she was in pain, but quickly realized 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 crying from being emotional and happy,” Nelson said.
Instead of asking “Why?” Claudia and Nelson are relying on their faith in God. “Just ask for strength that we can go through this again,” she said.
The Mousques family says Sophia has brought so much joy to their family. “She just makes our life much better,” Claudia said. “She is just such an example of strength.”
“And she will do whatever she can to make you smile and make you happy,” Nelson added. “Material things come and go but family — that’s what is important.”
They are both humbled 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 deal, it’s a big deal,” Claudia said.
“You are the princess,” Claudia told Sophia at the end of the performance.
Skate For Cancer 2021 will be held this Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Peaks Ice Arena in Provo. The event is free but all other proceeds will go directly to Sophia’s family, who also lost their business during the pandemic.