PUTNAM COUNTY, OH (WTOL) - It's every family's worst nightmare, and two Putnam County parents have lived it twice - losing a child to cancer.
Laura Warniment describes life as busy, straight forward and active with her kids, daughters Gracee and Emma, along with twins Lucie and Jude.
But close to her family’s heart are Griffin and Stella, her children lost to cancer.
Hardship and suffering beyond imagine began more than a decade ago with Griffin.
“When we got the diagnosis, it was devastating,” said Laura, tears in her eyes. “It just brings you to your knees, literally.”
At age 5, Griffin was diagnosed with stage four Wilms tumor. He initially responded well to treatment, but the cancer began to spread.
Laura’s husband Al described the experience of walking through the doors of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a huge ray of hope. Laura felt the same way.
“Everybody has that same mantra of feeling, like, they are putting their arms around you and giving you a big hug and saying, ‘I’m going to take care of these things for you.’"
The open door of St. Jude’s brought care, comfort and hope to the Warniments.
"I think we still had that insane amount of hope that this was going to be fine,” said Laura. “It just didn't go that way."
Ultimately, Griffin's tumor was far too advanced and the agonizing decision was made to go home.
Taking what joy they could, the Warniments spent the last days of Griffin's life peacefully at home.
In September 2005, Griffin passed away.
"We are very religious, so we knew he was in a much better place. And we were very happy for him in that respect but devastated for ourselves that we had to find a new normal," said Laura.
That new normal included the birth of Stella.
A few years later, Laura and Al wanted to honor St. Jude, and did just that with the birth of twins Lucie and Jude.
For six short weeks, life felt full again. Then, the unthinkable happened.
"I was putting Stella to bed, and I felt a hardness in her back. My stomach just dropped; my heart dropped. I knew,” said Laura. “I didn't sleep. I was hoping if I went back in and touched her, it would go away.”
Knowing it would break Al’s heart, she couldn't immediately find the words to tell him.
At just two years old, Stella, like her brother, was diagnosed with Wilms tumor.
Due to St. Jude Hospital’s continued research from patients and institutions all over the world, there was greater hope for Stella.
"She responded quickly,” Laura said. “But then, probably a few months into it, they had found a new spot. And that was just devastating.”
Cancer again proved too much, and the Warniments found themselves explaining death to yet another child.
"We talked about getting angel wings, and she was actually very excited about getting to pick the color out. So that was another hard conversation," said Laura.
Nine months later, Stella earned her wings and joined her brother Griffin in heaven.
At the darkest hour, treatment and care for the children and entire family never come at a cost thanks to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Finding a cure is now all that matters.
Despite the heartbreak of losing two children to cancer, the Warniments are at peace and remain hopeful Stella and Griffin are still part of a greater cause.
"Griffin and Stella’s purpose potentially could be to cure cancer, Wilms tumor in particular," said Laura. “Childhood cancer is awful, but St. Jude offers so much in the way of hope and joy. It is a happy place, not a sad place."
When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital started in 1962, the survival rate of childhood cancer was at 20 percent – today it is more than 80 percent.
But its mission won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
The hospital’s daily budget of more than $2 million is supported mainly by generous donors.