Special Report: Family Strong

Amy Adamle
Updated: November 08, 2018 10:57 AM

Throughout life, there are those big moments that change the course of everything. One Duluth family has seen more than their fair share. 


It seems they're a picture-perfect family.  A mom and dad raising their first child and now a new addition to their growing family

"This is Sasha," Nadya Sauer said, introducing her second daughter. 

Bringing a newborn home is a big life event for any family, even under normal circumstances.

"Tired, like most parents with a newborn," Joe Sauer, the dad, said about how they're feeling. 

But for the Sauers, this year has been anything but normal.

"When it all started, I remember thinking at that time, I just want it to be a year from that time, just so it would be at least over," Nadya said. 

In fact, it's been a harder year than anyone could imagine, but from the outside looking in, you would never know.

"We just take it day by day," Nadya said. 

Last December everything changed for Nadya, Joe, and their family, before they even knew they'd grow into a family of four.  It all started when their little girl, Misha, was hurting.

"We knew she had something, but we couldn't get a diagnosis," Joe said.  

About a month later, Nadya received her own life-changing news.

"I found out I was pregnant," Nadya said.  

It was news they were certainly overjoyed to hear, but hard to focus on while they were still figuring out what Misha was facing.  On top of all of that, Joe had a lump in his neck.   Every family member was facing something of their own. 

"So we kind of had a tough month or so there where we knew she had something, but we didn't know, we knew Nadya was pregnant, we knew I had something, but didn't know," Joe said. 

For agonizing weeks, they waited to find what was wrong with both Joe and Misha.  In the meantime, they received good news. 

"We were able to see the first pictures of the baby and find out the baby was healthy in the afternoon," Joe said. 

They relished in the moment, but it didn't last long.

"That night, I got the call about my diagnosis," Joe said.  

His diagnosis was Nodular Hodgkins Lymphoma, cancer in the lymph nodes.  Joe started his battle.

"I went through four rounds of chemo and radiation," Joe said. 

Just as he began, they received news that no parent should ever have to hear.

"The day of his first chemo was the day we found out that Misha had leukemia," Nadya said.  

Misha's was a rare diagnosis, usually only seen in adults, Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

So dad and daughter both started treatment, fighting literally side by side at the same hospital, Essentia Health - St. Mary's.

"Misha was in the crib getting her chemo, and Joe was in the bed trying to recover after his chemo, and me just between them," Nadya said.  

Misha's hospital stays lasted a month at a time, with five to 10 days of chemo, followed by 10 days of a lowered immune system.

"That's when the fevers and the sickness kind of come in," Joe said. 

Then 10 more days of recovering, before she could go home for about a week, only to go back to do it all over again.  Watching their daughter being stripped of her childhood, was harder than anything Joe or Nadya were dealing with themselves.

"I joke about the fact that Misha stole my cancer and she stole her pregnancy, because it's tough, you're having a bad day and, 'Oh woah is me," and then you come see your little girl and she's smiling, so you think, 'Well if she can do it,'" Joe said.  

Finally late this summer, Joe finished his treatment.

"Feeling good,"  Joe said.  "Able to have more energy to give to this little one."

Then in September, it was Misha's turn finishing her treatment and welcoming a beautiful, healthy baby sister.

"Misha got out about five days before Sasha was born," Joe said.  

After months and months of hospital beds, they're all adjusting to being home in their own, especially Misha.

"She's happy to be at home and back to her toys," Nadya said.  

When people ask, "How did they do it?"

"We try to look at the positive," Joe said.

There were so many positives for them like the outpouring of community support, strangers who made blankets, service animals brought in just to put a smile on Misha's face, and fundraisers that helped them through their toughest time. 

"We don't do this alone obviously," Joe said. 

Now they're figuring out how to find a sense of normalcy.

"There is a feeling of relief, but there's also a lot of worries," Nadya said.  "Of course we hope that it's not going to come back."  "You don't want to jinx it," Joe continued. 

They're enjoying the little things like being a normal family at home together.

"These tantrums, it's a lot better when it's just a little kid having a tantrum than a kid getting stuck with needles," Joe said.  "I'll take those cries all day long." 

They're facing life head-on. 

"When not given a choice," Joe said.  "Yeah when you have no choice, you have no choice, that's how we cope," Nadya continued. 

Throughout their ordeal, this family has proven that together they're stronger than anything that gets thrown their way.

Unfortunately, it's not all over yet, Joe will go back in for a PET scan soon to see if everything is ok and Misha continues to have follow-up appointments to see how she's doing.  

Now this family is giving back.  They're putting on a fundraiser for the people who cared for Misha, the Child Life Specialists.  It's called "Suds for Bubbles, Benefiting Pediatric Cancer," and it's on November 19 at 310 Pub from 3-7 p.m.  Five local breweries donated beer for the event.  310 Pub is also donating a portion of their profits.  


Amy Adamle

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