Julia Steinback unleashed a bundle of energy as the 3-year-old helped organize more than 100 toys for children being treated for cancer at Gundersen Lutheran’s Pediatric Oncology Center.
OK, so Julia, a leukemia patient herself, yielded to the temptation to open one present, but she gave it back, said her dad, Judson Steinback of La Crosse.
Julia was helping staffers from Mueller Photography deliver the toys the La Crosse studio gathered during a special promotion in her honor.
Her mother, Joy Steinback, said Julia was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia after a routine checkup in November 2011.
“It turned our world upside-down,” said Joy, a physical therapist at Mayo Health System-La Crosse.
“Even though I’m in the medical field, it’s difficult to be on the other side,” she said.
Because of Joy’s job at Mayo, the Steinbacks were referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Julia was hospitalized for 23 days of intense treatment, Joy said.
Judson quit his job as a teacher at Three Rivers Waldorf School to stay home to care for Julia, who required weekly treatments in Rochester.
Julia’s form of leukemia has a 95 percent cure rate, Joy said. Around Labor Day, she reached a “maintenance level,” which she must sustain with monthly treatments until Labor Day 2014 to be considered cured, Joy said.
Judson, who started his own landscaping business, Coulee Region Ecoscapes LLC, this summer, said Julia’s enthusiasm with the gifts was typical for her.
Cradling the Steinbacks’ other daughter, 5-month-old Jayda, he said some believe that a second child innately senses when a sibling has cancer and is easy to raise.
That’s the case with Jayda, who he said is a mellow baby.
Mueller Photography owner Adam Mueller said he chose Julia as honoree for his Children Helping Children promotion, in which children who brought in a toy received a free portrait sitting, because the Steinbacks are longtime friends and clients.
“We’ve known Adam forever,” Joy said. “After Julia was diagnosed, anything he could do, he did.”
Even though Julia is being treated at Mayo, “the point of Children Helping Children is to keep things local, so that’s why the toys are going to Gundersen’s cancer center,” Joy said.