Tamara Bernstein

Tamara Bernstein

July 2, 2002 - April 18, 2013

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
  • Diagnosis: Leukemia

Tamara was handed so many challenges right from birth, but she faced every one of them with bravery and determination to not only overcome, but to excel. She smashed through the perceived limitations of Down syndrome to accomplish everything she set out to do, with a little support and encouragement along the way.

Tamara grew to become a hard-working student, artist, dancer, scientist, philosopher, entertainer, deal-maker, restaurant connoisseur, chef, skier, skater, DJ, songwriter, world traveller, therapist and nurse. Above all else, she was a believer and a lover of life.

Fun days were filled with friends at the park and on the swings in her backyard, making crafts at the kitchen table, picking strawberries and baking pies and brownies with Mommy, outings to the mall with Bubbie, walks, bike rides and reading stories with Daddy, dance contests with her big sister Rayna, holidays and celebrations with family, making sand castles on the beach and exploring aquariums in Florida and Vancouver. Tamara made friends everywhere she went. And everywhere she went, there was music and dancing.

At eight years old, Tamara was diagnosed with leukemia. The hospital became our home and Tamara created an extended family of her nurses and doctors. She learned about her blood counts and to breathe and calm herself in preparation for endless tests, needles, transfusions and rounds of chemotherapy. She taught her parents to breathe to relax. She sang to other scared children. She danced even while connected to her IV pole. Tamara taught everyone that bright smiles and warm hugs are good medicine too.

There was a regular stream of friends and family who came to visit, but every day, there was Camp Ooch.  They got Tamara out of bed and walking on her weakest days. And when she was in isolation, they gowned up in haz-mat suits and masks to come in to her room to play guitar and sing for her. They brought happiness and hope.  Best of all, she went to the sleepover camp in Muskoka for two whole weeks.  She told her parents not to worry, be happy.

Tamara’s happy and loving spirit lit up those around her. The world is a better place because she was here and set an example for all of us by just being herself.

Our Featured Ambassador

This is Josh Nelson – a childhood cancer survivor. He knows about facing all the challenges of childhood cancer:

“I know first-hand how it feels to be a prisoner in the hospital and endure the surgeries and the endless needles and treatments. I know how it feels to lose my hair, throw up regularly and watch other kids around me earn their wings. I lost a part of my childhood that I will never get back. I know how it feels to look different and to be different. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish for any other kid to go through, and that is why I do what I do.”

Read more about Josh’s journey »

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