WESTFIELD, NJ — Madeleine Sanford learned on her 17th birthday that she had rare brain cancer.
The diagnosis, however, didn’t stop Madeleine from going to prom, seeing Broadway shows, and even visiting the Galapagos Islands, a trip made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, her mother, Alexandra Sanford, said on Tuesday.
Madeleine, known as Maddie, died on Sunday. She was 18, her mother said.
“She was always really reveling in life,” Sanford said. “She wasn’t hiding from life or retreating from herself. She was part of the world.”
Madeleine’s fight with pediatric cancer included two surgeries, radiation and numerous chemotherapy treatments, Sanford said. Through it all, the Westfield community offered support, she said.
“The whole community has been amazing and so generous and loving to Madeleine throughout this whole horrible journey,” Sanford said. “I would like to thank everyone in the community from our elected officials to our school employees to business owners and the broader community for all the support and well wishes that we’ve had from them over the past year-and-a-half as Maddie was fighting pediatric brain cancer.”
Visitation will be at Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, 582 Springfield Ave., Westfield, Wednesday, March 6, from 4 to 8 p.m. There will be a service at The Stage House Tavern, 1099 Route 22, in Mountainside on Thursday, March 7, at 11 a.m.
“Maddie was smart, kind, brave and determined,” said Councilwoman Dawn Mackey in a Facebook post. “We were blessed to know her. She will be greatly missed.”
In addition to her mother, Madeleine leaves behind her brother, Christian, who is a seventh-grader at Edison Intermediate School, her father, Thomas Sanford, and her stepmother, Jodi Hutchison-Sanford.
In keeping with her wishes, the family intends to cremate Madeleine’s remains and bury her ashes in a biodegradable vessel on top of which a tree will be planted, her mother said.
“The remains will nourish the tree so that she can live on as part of the forest, which is great because Madeleine has always been so passionate about the environment, the earth and the cycle of life,” Sanford said.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh