When Shana Depontes-Eddy of Westport was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia in 2015, her life drastically changed. With her cancer in remission for the past five years, she dedicates her time advocating for a nonprofit organization, Team Shai, providing a safe space for families dealing with cancer, and most recently, highlighting her annual toy drive dedicated to making the holidays special for kids and families at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Depontes-Eddy was diagnosed at the age of 22. She had been dealing with severe headaches and fatigue; when she woke up with severe bruising after a normal night’s sleep, she knew something was wrong.

“I went to Boston’s emergency room, and I ended up in the hospital for a month,” she said. At the time, her son was only a year old, and her heart ached to watch her son trying to process what was happening to mommy.

“Besides the physical stuff, that was the worst part,” she said. “He would come to visit but watching him cry for me was the worst.”

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Depontes-Eddy went into remission and underwent treatment every month following at Dana Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, but the remission didn’t last long.

“After the third round of maintenance chemo, I got a rare blood infection and it caused me to go septic. I ended up in the ICU for a week,” she said. She remained in the hospital for another month. That’s when her friend and mother decided to make a Facebook page.

“They organized a fundraiser for me and kept people up to date,” Depontes-Eddy said. “But after being in remission for nine months, it came back.”

It turned out that her brother was a 100 percent donor match for a stem cell transplant. Since the surgery, it’s been five years of remission for Depontes-Eddy.

The entire ordeal was incredibly taxing, but she was lucky enough to have a family to lean on throughout the entire process and be at a facility that left Depontes-Eddy feeling thankful.

“The care at Boston is unmatched,” she said. “I left with a sense of gratitude. We are so lucky to have the medical care we have in Boston. You truly feel as though they want to save your life.”

When she left and returned to her son and husband, she felt compelled to give back to the place that gave her a second chance at life. Her family is her world, so she turned her attention to Boston’s Children’s Hospital to give back.

Team Shai became a nonprofit organization in 2017, and every year since, Depontes-Eddy hosts a toy drive for the families at Boston Children’s. Due to COVID-19, she will be accepting monetary donations until December 17 that get directly sent to the hospital. Depontes-Eddy hopes to provide a safe space online for others who are navigating their life after a cancer diagnosis.

“I like to validate their feelings,” she explained. “Well wishes are great, but truthfully, it sucks, and want to let people know they aren’t alone with those feelings.”

Depontes-Eddy looks forward to growing awareness for her nonprofit organization and continuing to live her life to the fullest with her husband and son by her side.

After Donating a Holiday Toy, Enjoy These Epic Holiday Displays on the SouthCoast

It's not just your neighbors decorating for the holidays anymore. Local zoos, theme parks and other big businesses are getting in the holiday light display game as well, and there are some amazing sites to be seen across Massachusetts and Rhode Island this season – some without even getting out of your car.