Remembering Sydney Kaplan

Stella Bennett

“Losing Sydney is impossibly hard, and it happened so suddenly that we’re still trying to catch our breath,” Sarah Kaplan, Sydney Kaplan’s mother, said.

Sydney snuggling her beloved cat, Abby. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Kaplan)

On Nov. 25, 2020, Sydney Kaplan, a sophomore, passed away from complications due to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The Redwood community grieves this loss but will always remember her courageous fight and joyous life. Sydney will be celebrated as a delightful girl with a beautiful heart who inspired others to persevere through difficult times.

In the fall of 2018, Sydney had just begun her eighth-grade year. She explained to Cub Reporter Stella Bennett that it was also during this time that she was first diagnosed.

“I had been having some pain [in my leg] over the summer, and [my family] eventually went to my pediatrician who had no idea where it was coming from,” Sydney said.

Three months later, in December of 2018, they received a pathology report from a lung nodule confirming Sydney had osteosarcoma. According to Sarah, Sydney’s diagnosis forever changed their lives.

“You feel like everything has been put on hold in some ways. You cannot live your life like you normally would,” Sarah said.

Soon after her diagnosis, Sydney began sharing the news with her close friends, including sophomore Taylor Wein.

“I just remember being so scared and kind of numb because this friend that I had known for almost my entire life had this life-threatening illness,” Wein said. “But she was one of the most positive people I knew. Somehow she managed, at least around me, to keep a smile on her face.”

Following Sydney’s first round of chemotherapy, the Kaplan’s packed up and moved to Boston, Mass. for three months. They had decided to go to Mass General, a hospital located in Boston that specializes in a radiation procedure called Proton therapy, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, that initially helped Sydney. However, after they moved back home, the Proton treatment ultimately ceased to work, and her tumor continued to grow.

On top of these obstacles, in March of 2020, the spread of COVID-19 changed everyone’s way of life. Sydney and Wein, along with every student across America, were forced to learn online, making it harder for the two friends to see each other.

A collage of Sydney that was at the vigil to commemorate her life. (Stella Bennett)

Due to Sydney’s compromised immune system, she and her family had to take extra safety precautions, making the pandemic difficult for her. Although Sydney saw her friends a few times, it was a poor substitute for seeing them five days a week. Wein said she could count on one hand the number of times she saw Sydney over shelter-in-place.

Although physically isolated, Sydney wanted to find a way to bring people together during the quarantine. To do this, she created a lending library. According to Wein, Sydney successfully ran the library, and people took advantage of the opportunity to read and find new interests. Sydney loved books all her life and continued to read frequently throughout her cancer treaments.

By November 2020, Sydney was taking roughly 20 daily medications and supplements. She also had health care appointments seven to 10 times a week. With this occupied schedule, one could only assume Sydney would struggle with her schoolwork; however, this was not the case. She persevered and continued to complete her assignments on time, according to another close friend, sophomore Chloe Bishop.

“Whenever we did group work, she was always a valuable member and put a lot of effort into all her work. She never slacked off and was so nice and happy all the time,” Bishop said.

Nicole Plescia, a world cultures and geography, social issues and French teacher, was one of Sydney’s previous teachers. Plescia shares a similar view to Bishop that Sydney was an excellent student.

Students wearing yellow to show support for Sydney and other osteosarcoma patients.

“Sydney always worked so hard; she was so thoughtful and tenacious with everything she did,” Plescia said.

Plescia, along with all of Sydney’s friends and family, believes that Sydney was often characterized as funny, passionate and creative, all qualities Sydney continued to demonstrate throughout her battle with cancer. Resilient, however, is the best adjective to describe Sydney.

Sydney continued to fight until her last days, and had always recovered well from procedures. Over the week of Nov. 23, her cancer became unmanageable. Sydney’s doctors found that her cancer had spread across her brain, and nothing could be done.

Those who were close to Sydney were greatly affected by her passing but are grateful for everyone who has shown their support.

“[Sydney] always had such a positive attitude,” Bishop said. “I can’t remember a single person that ever had a problem with her; Sydney was just so sweet to every person she met. She was the image of kindness and such a caring person.”

To help others who suffer from osteosarcoma, you can donate to the Making it Better (MIB) Agents organization. Funds will support the research to find a cure for osteosarcoma and save the lives of many in the future.