Four years ago, her son was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 10, and this summer the Comal ISD mother of two published a book titled, Joy in the Journey, about the life lessons she and her family learned through the ups and downs.
At the time of the diagnosis, Sarah Permenter was like any other busy mom, working full-time and chaperoning her kids to and from activities, and she began sharing her family’s cancer journey through the CaringBridge website. It was an easy way to let family and friends know how her son, Seth, was doing and what was happening with his treatments and prognosis.
“Even in the beginning of the journey,” said Permenter, who works for the district, “I said that I don’t want to ever forget what cancer has taught us. It taught us so many life lessons that I didn’t want to go back to what life was like precancer.”
She soon discovered that her CaringBridge entries were inspiring and encouraging others who were going through something in their lives, and the idea of writing a book took shape.
Joy in the Journey is arranged by topic featuring the short entry Permenter wrote originally followed by a scripture and a blank page meant for the reader to use to write his own notes, thoughts, quotes or scripture.
“The book is truly meant for anyone to read,” Permenter said, “not just if you have cancer or if you are a caregiver. There are things about life in there, and I think you can find a connection to anything you may be going through.”
While the book is for anyone, Permenter does have some advice for families who are navigating a cancer diagnosis. First, she encourages them to take a moment to pause, breath and say a prayer.
“This is not something you are meant to go through on your own,” she said. “Our faith is what got us through it.
“Secondly, I told my family that we are going to handle this with grace and dignity. It’s not a path that we would have chosen, but it is how we handle it that I truly believe determines the outcome each and every time. As upsetting as it can be, we know that we have to be positive; we need to laugh; we need to plan for the next adventure and events to have something to look forward to. It was never going to be a death sentence in our heads.”
The third piece of advice she gives is to accept help. If someone offers to drop off dinner, say, “Thank you.” If someone offers to do the laundry say, “Thank you.” That’s the key. Take the help.
As for Seth, now 14 and an eighth-grade student at Smithson Valley Middle School, wearing masks and washing hands is nothing new. He has undergone two additional cancer diagnoses since the initial one when he was in the fourth-grade at Bill Brown Elementary. Currently, he is taking oral chemotherapy and completed targeted radio therapy in June for a new spot found on one of his lungs.
He has not let cancer slow him down, though. He made the golf team at SVMS last spring, is the football manager for the SVMS team this year, plays the bassoon in the band, is active in Boy Scouts and is working towards his Eagle Scout, loves hunting, camping and, of course, playing video games with friends.
Seth Strong Foundation
Giving back to the community is a big part of the Permenter family’s motto as well. The Seth Strong Foundation was established by a group of mothers from BBES whose initial goal was to help the family get through the first cancer diagnosis. The group started with a mother/son kickball tournament in May 2017, and it became a non-profit organization a year later.
Proceeds from the now annual mother/son kickball tournament are given to local families who are undergoing a life threatening illness of a child. The foundation also began giving scholarships to Smithson Valley High School seniors two years ago. These students have been directly touched by cancer with a cancer diagnosis themselves or a family member living in their household with a diagnosis.
The Seth Strong Foundation has raised around $50,000 since its inception, and it has given $16,000 in scholarship money.
For Permenter, Seth is the one who keeps her positive and motivated.
“From the beginning, we said, ‘#livingtoday,’ and it’s just that reminder that during cancer and even now, that the best laid plans go out the window,” she said. “All we are truly given is today. Make the most of it, and know that our plans are not our plans, truly.”
-Comal ISD parent, Sarah Permenter, and her son, Seth, are holding Sarah’s book, Journey to Joy, about their family’s experience with childhood cancer.
-Seth Permenter, 14, is an eighth-grade student at Smithson Valley Middle School and was first diagnosed with osteocarcoma as a fourth-grade student at Bill Brown Elementary.