PHOENIX, AZ — 18-year-old Sophia Christensen was excited to graduate high school, go to her senior prom and start college, but her plans were derailed in February.
“It was horrible," her mom, Ann, said. "I don’t think we expected for her to get as angry as she was. She cried, she threw things, she broke things and asked 'Why? Why couldn’t I just have graduation? Why couldn’t I just have prom?'”
Sophia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia for the second time in four years. Her first battle started in 2014, she was 14 years old.
“Her whole high school experience has been overshadowed by cancer," added Ann.
Sophia was in remission for one year, but now spends every day at Phoenix Children's Hospital, starting treatment all over again.
"It’s really hard to hear 'stay strong, be strong, you can beat this again,'" her mom said. "That’s a really hard thing to be hearing when you heard that the first time and you thought you did.”
Her family is doing their best to stay strong, too. While the diagnosis is hard on them emotionally, it's also a huge financial issue.
Knowing they'd need help, Sophia's mom, Ann, started an online fundraiser using GoFundMe.com. The campaign's raised almost $7,000 for Sophia's treatment.
“We tried to make our first withdrawal, and we were rejected, without telling us any reason why it was rejected," explained Ann.
She's been emailing customer service agents for almost two weeks but has yet to see a dime.
“I’ve had friends Venmo us money because we have no access to this, we have lost more than half of our income trying to care for her," she added.
GoFundMe representatives told Ann there was some confusion between email addresses from a GoFundMe set up to help Sophia's family four years ago, when she was first diagnosed, causing the withdrawals to fail.
While trying to find alternatives to get around the issue, Christensen says her family and friends have tried to remove the money they donated to the campaign, and instead, send it to them another way, but according to Ann, GoFundMe said they're not allowed to revoke a donation after more than 24 hours.
"I don’t think that GoFundMe and these other companies understand that there has to be a way to pick up the phone and be able to help people, instead of having to wait 11, 12 or even 13 days for answers," said Ann.
She's now encouraging others who want to donate to avoid using the site, and instead donate directly via apps like Venmo, directly to a bank account, or simply giving gift cards for food, gas or groceries can do just as much good.