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Family project aims to spread feelings of hope in a time of fear

Categories: Cancer

When cancer struck the Sweet family, they didn't turn bitter – instead, they started a project that lives up to their name: “sweet rocks from the Sweet girls,” said Debbie, mother of Sarah and Katie Sweet.

The palm-sized, multicolored stones, painted with inspirational words like “love” and “hope,” are the result of a summer project that grew out of a rock.

It was a rock that helped Irvine resident Meredith Paddock, Debbie Sweet's mother, through a skin cancer diagnosis in April after discovering a suspicious mole. The gift came from a stranger.
Having had two previous diagnoses of kidney and uterine cancer decades earlier, Paddock was no stranger to the fear it creates. But this was the first time her doctor recommended she see an oncologist. Sitting in the doctor's office for her first appointment, Paddock said she was so frightened, she was shaking.

Her fear remained until she opened a little bag she took from a basket at the sign-in desk – encouraging patients to “take one.” Inside, she found a simple stone with the word “LOVE” painted across it, bordered by pink and yellow lines.

“To have a total stranger send you love and hope, it's really beautiful,” Paddock said. “To think that one silly little stone would create this great emotion of thankfulness in my body, I mean, who would think? One little stone. But it just did, it really affected me.”

From then on, she and the rock were inseparable. It was in her pocket, on her nightstand – her husband even held the rock through surgery, she said. After the mole and a nearby lymph node were removed, Paddock said, her latest scan shows she's clear – just checkups every six months, no radiation or chemo.

After seeing how the rock touched Paddock, Aliso Viejo resident Debbie Sweet decided to start a project with her two daughters, 10-year-old Sarah and 8-year-old Katie. They started painting rocks to give as gifts to people struggling with cancer. What began in July as a summer project has turned into a collection of more than 100 painted rocks, Debbie said, and a good way to help her children understand the disease, since it has touched friends and members of the family. Paddock said she and her husband contributed money for the supplies out of gratitude for the rock that help her through a hard time.

“We want to share love and peace and inspiration with what Grandma went through,” Debbie said. “And it became an educational journey along the way.”

As Katie and Sarah sat down to paint some rocks – tiger stripes and marine life are some of their favorite designs – they talked about their process and hopes for the recipients.
Katie said while she's painting the rocks, she thinks, “that when patients see them, they'll make them feel better.”

Before she gave the rocks away, Sarah said they had both come to love their creations.
“But I'd rather give them to the people,” Sarah said. “It's also really sweet and my last name's Sweet,” she said, grinning.

Early in September, the Sweets gave more than 100 rocks to the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, at Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, and they plan to make a trip to Mission Women's Wellness Center in Mission Viejo, Debbie said.

As they made their donation, they were greeted by several supervisors and staff, including Sue Kelley, a charge nurse for the center's infusion area.

“The patients are so touched when anyone makes anything, but when the children do, it just touches them. They feel the love of God,” said Kelley. “All of a sudden something comes along like this and they don't feel alone.”

To view the original Orange County Register article, please clickhere.