There is no good timing when it comes to a loved one falling ill - especially when it is your child. The Desserichs were in the middle of renovating their Cincinnati home when doctors diagnosed their 6-year-old daughter, Elena with a rare paediatric brain cancer.
The devastating news took its time to sink in for her parents, but Elena had a remarkable forseight for someone so young.
Without their knowing, Elena hid hundreds of love notes to her parents and younger sister around their home.
Elena's parents, Keith and Brooke Desserich discovered the notes tucked into drawers, bags, between pages of books and even in the china cabinet.
Over a period of nearly two years, they were surprised by randomly hidden notes written by their brave little girl who passed away in her bed in August of 2007.
"Elena was wise beyond her years," Keith, from Ohio, told Mirror Online. "She would go out of her way to offer help to younger children, even reaching out to adults when she felt they needed her comforting."
Elena was just five years old when she was diagnosed with Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DPIG), a rare childhood brain tumor for which there is no cure.
Despite all that was happening to her tiny body, Eleny was truly a selfless soul:
"Elena would lose something every day," said Keith. "Some days it might be the ability to roll her tongue, other days, the use of her hand."
"Even during her own cancer treatments, she was more concerned about her sister than herself," he told the Mirror.
At first, her parents assumed she was just emulating her father's own note-taking habit, but when they realized that Elena even hid notes at her grandmother's house, they knew it was much more:
"We believe that Elena was simply doing this for us." “It was her way of letting us know that everything would be OK,” Brooke told Today.com.
Ten years after Elena's passing, the family still finds comfort in their eldest daughter's love notes. They each keep a special note tucked into their briefcases - little Elena is never far from their hearts.
They knew that there was more to be done, young Elena's parents had a calling...
As a way to deal with the loss, her parents created a blog that featured Elena's love notes and the story of her fight against cancer. Although it was initially for family only, it eventually became a popular public blog.
The family has now published a novel of their experience called 'Notes Left Behind' with all proceeds from the sales going to Elena's charity: The Cure Starts Now. The charity is dedicated to finding a cure for cancers that cannot be conventionally treated.
"Ultimately we want the cure and we want to save children like Elena – that is the biggest honour that we could ever have," says Elena's father, Keith.