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
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
“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.”
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