Cancer Survivor Stories

Article About Childhood Cancer Survivors from Caring4KidsCancer

It is often believed that childhood cancer is ‘rare,’ and that it doesn’t affect many people. However, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, there are thousands of children between birth and 19 years old who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer annually. It is a much more prevalent issue than perceived, and this lack of awareness is what leads to the lack of funding. Only 4% of Federal government research funding goes to study pediatric cancer, so many children are forced to endure the harsh effects of adult therapies. In order to increase awareness on this issue, we are providing a platform for people to share what they have gone through and inform others. The people we have interviewed are Kyrell, Lovely (his mother), Ellie, and Carolina


Could you please introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your experiences with childhood cancer?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): My name is Kyrell, and I have been battling cancer for a year now. I first realized something was wrong when I was at a soccer game, and my leg cramped up. It got worse and worse, and eventually the doctors diagnosed that it was cancer.                         

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My name is Carolina Valls. I am a registered nurse and a mother to an 11 year old boy who battled Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, for the past 16 months.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): My name is Ellie, and I was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of 14. There was a bump in my leg as well as pain, and doctors thought it was just muscle pain, but later I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of tissue cancer).


What qualities in your child do you admire as he/she faces obstacles?
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): He looks on the positive side. He is able to see the good in everything, and always seems to have a smile on his face. He has actually brought our family together because even though we might be going through tough times, he remains positive and happy. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My son is resilient beyond measure. He has overcome every obstacle that has come his way with the most positive and calm demeanor. 


What or who has helped you the most as you/your child undergoes treatments for cancer?

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): The doctors and nurses were very kind and supportive. The other families that we met were helpful, and hearing the inspiring stories in a community brought everyone together. 

Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I was fortunate enough to have a strong support network, since I had a lot of friends and visitors who would come by daily. I also lived in a ward full of people my age, so it helped me feel less isolated. 


What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young kids/families facing cancer or another difficult struggle?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): When I first found out I had cancer, I cried.             

  But when I was told that there are a lot of kids out there who are like me, I felt better. Just feeling like I was not alone, and there are others made a difference. 
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I think just accepting that you do have cancer, goes a long way. Staying in denial won’t get you anywhere, and if you keep feeling sorry for yourself you’re going to feel depressed. I’d say accept this happened, and do what you can now. 


How did your child/you having childhood cancer change your outlook on life?
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): It truly made me realize how precious and fragile life is. You always hear the saying “Life is too short,” but you do not come to realize how true that is until your life, or especially that of your child’s is threatened.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I don’t really worry about the small things anymore. Too many people stay focused on little problems, but I honestly think if you’re happy and healthy, then it’s going to be fine. I also learned to be more grateful for what I have, and that life is too short to waste it. 


What words would you NOT want people to say to you as your family faces challenges?
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): We want to be treated normally. We do appreciate the kind gestures people show, but when you’re treating us like we’re disabled, it kind of gets old. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): “I’m sorry”, “It could be worse”…


What things should people say/do to best support a family with a child with cancer?
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): Just be there. And visit often, because when I was first diagnosed, everyone would come by to visit. But as time passed, less people showed up. 

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Be who you were to us before the diagnosis. Don’t change and act different. Just be there for us when we need you. 


What kinds of changes do you want to see in the society we are currently living in regarding childhood cancer?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): [smiling] I don’t know, just talk more about it. 

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): People need to be made much more aware about this topic. I was a cancer nurse for more than 10 years, and I didn’t even know someone in my own house had cancer. I was taught all the signs and symptoms, but just not in kids. So when my son was complaining about a cramp in his leg, I had no idea it could be related to cancer. Even though it was my career, and I knew so much about it, I wasn’t educated at all about pediatric cancer. There is a lot of funding and education for adult cancer, but kids need proper treatment too. If my son was diagnosed 3 years ago, he would have been forced to endure harsh adult therapies. But because more research had been done, he was able to have a better experience, and that’s all because of awareness!

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): Most research funding is geared towards adult cancers. That needs to change. Our children are our future and deserve more than 4%! We also need to educate ourselves better as a society on ways to reduce our risk of cancer and live healthier lives. 
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): More funding and less ignorance. People’s’ attitude towards childhood cancer is that it’s rare, and it really isn’t and you see cases increasing year upon year. Companies don’t really see childhood cancer as profitable so they don’t invest as much of their resources in that aspect. And as a result of this children have to be treated with adult treatments, and this leads to a lot of long term side effects.


How do you plan on creating these changes? 
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Ever since Kyrell was diagnosed we’ve been trying our best to make an impact. We’ve been going to interviews, sharing our stories, and supporting people like you who aren’t affected but want to help. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): I have created a website http://www.rnmomcologist.com and Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/rnmomcologist where I plan to continue to share our journey with cancer.

Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I’ve done a lot of campaigning. Whether it be on YouTube or Instagram. And I’ve attended interviews, so spreading the word about this issue is really important. 

A common theme that surfaces throughout the interviews is a lack of awareness. The perception of childhood cancer being ‘rare’ leads to less research and funding. Children are forced to be treated with harsh adult treatments, and this in turn causes side effects that will affect these kids for the rest of their lives. The key to improving the lives and experiences of pediatric patients is awareness.

        Be informed, spread the word!

For more information go to: caring4kidscancer.wixsite.com/childhoodcancer

Cancer Survivor Stories, Events

Gabby Galarneau for St. Baldrick’s Foundation

In January, Gabby was announced as one of St. Baldrick’s 2019 Ambassadors representing over 300,000 other children who are diagnosed with cancer each year worldwide. Five ambassadors are chosen every year because one in five kids diagnosed in the U.S. will not survive. This is the unfortunate reality of cancer and the devastating truth that a lot of families are having to succumb to.

Gabby was in the eighth grade when her life completely changed and she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma back in November of 2017. Her treatment included limb salvage surgery on her left leg to remove a tumor, her knee and six inches of her femur with a total of 18 rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Even though her treatment was completed July 2018 and she is in remission, she still endures a lot of the residual side effects. Gabby is having to undergo continuous physical therapy to learn to walk again and dealing with other unfortunate and permanent late effects, like hearing loss secondary to the chemotherapy she received. She now has to wear hearing aids as a result of it. Even though the treatment portion it self is over, the journey continues. Gabby continues to have scans done every 3 months as her type of cancer has a 50% chance of recurrence over the next 5 years. 

Gabby has spent many days at the hospital and the only thing about it that she actually enjoyed were the therapy dogs. All throughout her inpatient hospital days while she would receive her chemo and even now during her physical therapy sessions, she always requests the volunteer hospital dogs to be at her side. Gabby got to design her own pair of socks to raise funds for St. Baldricks and her inspiration came from these therapy dogs that have helped her throughout her journey with cancer. All funds raised will be donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private funder for childhood cancer research funds, and used to find better treatment options, funding childhood cancer research and to give the lives of these childhood cancer survivors a better future.


We all have the ability to make a difference and help save a life. Our children are our future, but it starts with us to help make a change and ensure they are able to live a long, righteous life. If you would like to show Gabby your support, as well as so many other children who have been diagnosed with cancer, please purchase a pair of socks and remind them no one walks alone! https://www.resilience.gives/products/gabby-for-st-baldricks?variant

Cancer Survivor Stories

Chloe’s Fight with Ewing Sarcoma

“My cancer was Ewing’s Sarcoma, a very rare bone cancer. My cancer was localized to my right humerus. In the summer of 2016, I had my first symptoms which consisted of small amount of pain and swelling to my humerus. Then the pains were not continuous but there was pain every month and the bump grew. On January 10, 2017, the pain came back and this time it was unbearable, I suffered terribly. My parents decided to take me to the Emergency Room and I had an x-ray of my arm and a blood test done. We spent the night in the hospital and were then transferred to another hospital for further examinations. I underwent a biopsy of my arm, I had a scan, and a MRI. All of this was done not even within a week. Five days later, I was told that I have cancer, an Ewings Sarcoma. I was only 13 years old! Another five days later, I had surgery to put an implantable chamber site, a gastrostomy and for the ovaries.”

“January 27, 2017 I received my first dose of chemotherapy. I did the Euro Ewing treatment. This treatment has 3 parts (if all goes well). The first part has 6 courses of chemotherapy, each course lasted 3 days. I had vincristine, ifosfamide, mesna, doxorubicinn and etoposide phosphate.
The second part was the operation, I had an arthrodesis. The surgeon put my fibula in place of my humerus. I do not have all my mobility and my arm is well deformed; I am considered about 20% handicap.The third part is a consolidation course, it includes 8 courses of chemotherapy, each course lasted 24 hours. I had vincristine, dactinomycin, cyclophosphamide and mesna.”

“I had a lot of side effects: I had nausea, tiredness, I had to use a wheelchair and I had more than 20 blood transfusions. …but I finished my treatment on January 4th 2018. I am now in remission !!!”

“During the treatment, I had only one thing in mind! It was to survive. Some things helped me during the treatment, I went to my grandparents’ house by the sea, the change of air is extremely good. My parents sent me massages every night. My mother was very present, I was with her all day and even at night. I did what made me happy, I watched a lot of horror movies, I ate everything I wanted at any time, it was really great! Especially do what makes you have the most fun in these difficult times, it’s really important.”

“I will give you some advice, I do not want you to make the same mistake as me. During the treatment, I did not want to see my friends, I did not want them to see me like that and now I regret not having wanted to have fun with them because after the treatment, I had problems socializing. Despite your change of appearance, do not worry about others, even if it’s very difficult, live your life even with the disease, show cancer and others that you are the strongest and fight!”

Chloé Duflos 🇫🇷

Cancer Survivor Stories

Jake Olson: Out of Sight Faith

“The last thing I saw was a flash of light. I lost sight in my left eye before the age of one. For the next twelve years, I battled cancer in my right eye 8 times. Seven times I beat it. When it came back for the eighth time, there was nothing I could do. I was going to go blind. It was a sad feeling knowing that I had fought so hard for so long only to see the cancer win in the end. I knew I was going to have to re-learn how to do basic things that were once so easy. Putting toothpaste on my toothbrush, food on my fork, or walking around my house would all require significantly more effort. I viewed going blind as my biggest setback, but it ended up being my biggest set up.”

“My mom and doctor didn’t know I was listening to their conversation.“No more options,” my doctor said. “We will have to remove his remaining eye.” I held the old, bulky telephone closer to my ear and the unthinkable reality of going blind sunk in. It was similar to previous conversations, but the past seven times my cancer returned we had a solution that wouldn’t cost me my sight. I was 12 years old.My sudden screaming cut their conversation short. As my mom ran upstairs to console me, I pleaded with her: “How could we not fight it with something?” More chemo? I had already undergone a lifetime max of systemic chemo. More radiation? No, I had maxed out and was at a high risk of inducing a secondary fatal cancer. More laser treatment or cryotherapy? The cancer had become immune, it would no longer affect the tumors. How about where they go up my leg? No, the cancer would no longer respond to intra-arterial chemotherapy, we have done it too many times. PLEASE, I was begging, ANYTHING!”

Retinoblastoma is an aggressive, rare, fast-moving form of eye cancer located in the retina. In cases where all treatment options have been exhausted, removal of the eye is necessary to save the life of the child. It cost me my left eye at eight months old and my right eye at 12. However, even after losing my sight, I have never let it stop me or become an excuse to not live my life to the fullest.”

“In almost a decade without sight, I have shot in the 70s in golf, graduated high school with honors, become a professional speaker and author, set up my own foundation to help others, and started my own company, Engage. I played Division I football at USC, and I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in May.”

“I can now look back at the scared 12-year-old boy who was eavesdropping on a phone call that would forever change his life and see that devastating moment as an enormous blessing. I knew that my resilience, my persistence to fight even after defeat, would define my future.”

“I have learned that in every set back there is a set up waiting to happen, I have learned to listen to the winner within telling me what I’m worth, I have learned to leverage failure without pointing fingers, and I have learned the power of gratitude. However, despite these lessons and accomplishments, I still remember the pain, sorrow, and agony that I endured as a child battling Retinoblastoma. For this reason, I am determined to cure the disease that took my eye sight, and I could not have chosen a more opportune time.”

“Over the last 20 years, my childhood doctor, Dr. Linn Murphree and his partner, Dr. Brenda Gallie, with the help of researcher David Carpi at 3T, have developed a device that has shown the ability to cure even the most severe cases of Retinoblastoma, even cases like mine.”

“The Episcleral Topotecan device, or what we’ll refer to as the chemo plaque, is a non-invasive reservoir that is implanted in the eye. The device delivers direct chemo, Topotecan, to the tumors and vitreous seeds located within the eye and the results have been astounding. Last year, two children who had one tumorous eye left and who had maxed out on every other treatment option, were completely cured through the use of the chemo plaque.”

“I remember hearing about the development of this plaque around the time of my surgery and the reality is that this Episcleral device would have allowed me to see today. Even though it was too late for me, it doesn’t have to be too late for the children who are facing the same reality I did nine years ago.”

Episcleral Topotecan needs funding in order to undergo a clinical trial that will eventually make it the standard for treating Retinoblastoma. I am raising money through my pro-day bench press on March 20th so that no child has to lose their sight again to the cancer that took mine. I am asking for your help. All funds will be directed to Uplifting Athletes and Doctor Gallie and will go towards funding the Episcleral clinical trial.”

“Shortly before I went blind, Pete Carroll, head coach of the USC Trojans, heard about my story and invited me up to a practice. I was thrilled to get to go behind the scenes with my favorite team. I had no idea that Coach Carroll intended to make me a part of the Trojan family, and that watching this practice was only the beginning of a relationship that would change my life forever. Being around Coach Carroll helped remind me that nothing was impossible if you were always willing to compete and work for it. After I went blind, I became more determined than ever to not let blindness stop me from living the life I wanted to live.”

“I grew restless watching my high school football team play, and I knew I had to find a way back on to the field. I discovered the position of long snapping, and I worked at it until I was good enough to start for my high school team, and eventually become the first blind college player ever when I snapped in USC’s game against Western Michigan on September 2nd, 2017.  I am also very passionate about helping others, and established my foundation, Out of Sight Faith, to provide technology to blind schoolchildren. You can donate by clicking here and selecting Jake’s Out of Sight Faith Foundation.”

Jake Olson

Website: https://jakeolson.me

Pledge It Campaign: Jake Olson’s Reps for RetinoblastomaYou Tube: Jake Olson’s Out of Sight Faith

Instagram: @jakeolson61

(The information posted on this site are direct quotations from Jake Olson and has been done so with permission from Jake’s team.)

Cancer Survivor Stories

Grace Wethor: “You’re So Lucky”

“My name is Grace Wethor and I am a 17-year-old brain tumor survivor. Growing up I was a super active child. I got in trouble in school a lot, but mainly for things like choreographing dance numbers in the middle of math class or directing a film in the middle of English. No matter what it was, I always wanted to be creating something new. I was a figure skater and with the help of my team would soon become a world champion in the synchronized figure skating division. I was also a performer in the circus and traveled back and forth to Canada to train. After that, I explored acting, writing, poetry, film, and many more creative activities.”

“I believe our life is a circle. Our circle is made up of events and decisions that go both ways. An event can force you to make a decision and a decision can cause a string of events. We can’t always control the events that occur but the decisions to do the things we love is all up to us.”

“At age 13 I became tired, sick, and started losing passion for the things that I loved. I was taken to countless doctors that would say things such as she’s depressed, she’s a teenager, and worst of all, she’s making it up for attention.”

“One day my mom decided to take me to the ER to have me checked for Mono. It had been going around my school and I had some of the symptoms. With a test or two, they figured out I didn’t have mono but I had some weird blood markers. I was sent to the Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis Hematology department. It was there they told me I might have Leukemia.”

“Over the next couple of days, I went through extensive testing that thankfully showed I did not have Leukemia. Although this was good news, it sent us back to square one. They spent the next sixth months trying to figure out why I had all of these markers for leukemia but I didn’t actually have leukemia.”

“One day the doctors proposed an MRI of my spine and head. It was January 9th, 2015. I was in math class when I received the slip of paper that said my mom had arrived to pick me up. I got in the car and we drove to the hospital. We went through the procedure of the MRI and after I put on my P.E. clothes. I was headed off to gym class and we were doing the dance unit which of course this was my favorite. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to gym class that day.”

“About 10 minutes into our drive back to school, we received a phone call. It was very quick and my mother didn’t speak at all. She turned around the car and we headed back to the hospital.”

“That day I was diagnosed with a Brain Stem Glioma, a tumor in the brain stem. Due to the location, it was considered inoperable and chemotherapy/radiation had a slim chance of working. These medial roadblocks meant I was given an 8% chance of survival for the upcoming 6 months.”

“That was the day my life and perspective of living changed. I started living every day to the fullest and pursuing every dream or goal I could think of no matter the outcome. I moved to Los Angeles and started acting and modeling full time. Quickly I found myself modeling in New York Fashion Week and acting on Nickelodeon. 4 years later, I am still fighting my tumor every day but it is completely stable. I truly believe it was because of this one event that I changed my way of living. Having something place a time limit on you makes you work harder. Dreams I never thought would come true started manifesting themselves. I now focus on helping other cancer survivors pursue their dreams through my book “You’re So Lucky” and my non-profit organization “We Can Beats This.””

Grace Wethor- Brain Cancer Survivor & Activist

Website: http://www.thegracewethor.com/home.html

TedTalk: The Day That My Life Changed Forever

Instagram: @gracewethor

Cancer Survivor Stories

Michelle’s Journey with Medulloblastoma

“This all started in summer of 2015. I was 40 years old and up until then I was an able bodied woman looking after my son who was 4 years old at the time. I had very bad headaches which I thought were migraines, so I took some painkillers but they didn’t do nothing. I still had the bad headaches. While walking my son to school one day I had to hold him as my balance was so bad while walking.  I also remember being sick and having dizziness like symptoms at times. It was after these symptoms that I thought something was wrong, so I went to doctor who then said I must go straight to hospital. At hospital they did a MRI, which when they told me I had a brain tumor in the area of my cerebellum, my life changed forever. My family were informed. After this diagnosis  I went to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for care . I was informed and given advice of what may happen. I  also was asked whether I agreed to consent to surgeries. I had two operations, which I agreed to. I can’t remember much after this time frame, as I had a very serious brain infection and I was in the intensive care unit for a while.  I also had two additional operations to remove the infection of which I can’t remember the details, I was too ill at the time, so my family informed me.   After this I recovered in the hospital for some weeks, not being able to walk far at all and was in a wheelchair for the most part. Even the most simplest tasks like toileting had to occur while in bed or in a bedside commode. I did have balance problems after operation, it wasn’t related to tiredness for why I couldn’t walk far. I also had swallowing issues, so I had stuck to eating yogurts in the hospital. After some time, I was moved to a hospital closer to my hometown of Suffolk near the coast. I was given a NG tube for feeding. I still did eat by mouth but it was mainly puree stuff, as I had swallowing difficulties. After staying there for months, my walking improved a little and I started to use a four pronged walking stick to walk short distances like from the bed to the toilet. I disliked having the NG tube, so they changed it to a peg tube in my stomach for feeding nutrition, which again I was still eating pureed food by mouth. After I left the hospital I went to live in a residential home with 19 other residents, whose were mostly disabled in some form. I had my own room and there were caregivers in the building 24hrs a day for help and to administer medications, etc. I had a physical therapist assigned to me for exercise, such as learning to walk again on my own and going up stairs.   I also had a speech therapist for swallow issues and speech exercises which I did. The physical therapy helped me enormously in getting back some strength in my legs and arms. Overall it gave me confidence and hope for the future. We moved again in January 2018 and since moving I have improved a lot. I am walking every day and don’t use a wheelchair. I really now only use a walker to assist with balance but balance is much better now than before. I have started using my four pronged walking stick outside for walking longer distances, as it is more steady.  I was a Christian and went church before my operations, I was baptized too. After a few months I had another scan revealing the cancer had come back and it was around the brain. The doctor came to me and my family and revealed I had a few months left to live, which was devastating. Thanks to my brothers, I went to church for healing. They prayed and put hands on me asking for healing. They also held prayer meetings for me.  The minister also came to see me directly and we had prayer sessions . After this, I had radiation therapy but was told it wouldn’t reach the location of the tumor. I had 30 sessions of radiation therapy which would only delay the progression of cancer and add only months to my life. I was  scared, obviously and couldn’t really understand what was going  on. After t received the radiation therapy, they repeated the brain scan and to everyone’s amazement the cancer was no longer detectable. I went to see my consultant, who had tears in their eyes down streaming down her face saying “this doesn’t happen, it’s a miracle!”.  It is now nearly 2 years that I have been clear of cancer. Unfortunately I lost my faith and became very angry at God for having this happen to me. But then it made me wonder “did God heal me?” “And did the radiation therapy help?” I don’t know but I now thank God for this healing revelation. I would encourage others to seek His help because miracles like this do not happen every day but I am so blessed. I am eating more normal now, although the speech therapist during my swallow evaluations still says to stick to a purée diet which I dislike now but I know I have to be careful what I eat. It is a risk but I am aware of it and I do worry that I may aspirate. To be honest, I know what I can and can’t eat and if I cough while eating, I stop or correct it. When I drink fluids, they tend to be more difficult, so I have to put thickener in it so that I can drink it. I have given up drinking any alcoholic beverage and glad I did.  My speech is clearer than last year but it is still a bit slurred. I practice talking as much as I can and sing, or try to. I definitely have more strength in general, as I have joined a gym. I would say being brave has helped me build confidence to this day and not being being afraid to try new things and to push yourself to do new things . My determination and bravery have helped me through all of this and I would say trying to be positive about my conditions to continue to make goals and to achieve them. I advise not giving up on your dreams. Cancer is hard but be thankful for things you still have and can do while not letting it rule your life.”

Michelle- from Cambridge


Cancer Survivor Stories

Steven the Cancer Crusher

Steven before diagnosis

“I never thought my life would change the way it did. Never did I think it could happen to us, to my child. Hearing the words “your child has cancer” was the day I started mourning and haven’t stopped. I just learned to function like a machine for survival and mental health so to speak. Steven was suppose to be celebrating his 10th birthday on the same day he was to start the 4th grade, but instead he was in the specialty services oncology unit at Kaiser Permanente getting a bone marrow aspiration and spinal tap done along with blood tests.”

“One week prior to his diagnosis he was playing just fine and full of energy, being a wise guy and telling funny jokes. We went swimming that weekend and I noticed unusual bruising on him. We had just picked up his big brother Cris from the JROTC program in Carlsbad and celebrated by swimming and being together as a family. He had two bloody noses that weekend. “I asked him why do you have bruises? Is someone in summer school hitting you?” Being that we don’t use physical punishment for our kids as a form of discipline I knew something was wrong. I felt it, I knew it. Those bruises were not normal.”

“I took that following Monday off work and took him to get his blood drawn. I was scared the doctor would call CPS (child protective services) because of the bruises but she seemed to be very concerned in a different way. I didn’t hear from her that day after the blood work so I thought everything was fine. The next day I received a call asking to take him back to the lab to get more tests done and then he had to return again for an x-ray. My husband took him while I was at work.”

“At 3:30pm Tuesday, August 1st the doctor called and said I would be receiving a call from the Oncologist because his blood work showed his cells were rapidly dividing and his platelets were very low which explained the bruising. I screamed….I panicked… I was in denial and so angry. The oncologist called me a few minutes later and that’s when our journey in crushing cancer began. Steven was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and it was in 85% of his body but did not reach his cerebral spinal fluid which spared him from additional chemo treatments and radiation. Something to be so grateful for.”

“He had surgery and his first chemo treatments that Friday. Thus his chemo treatment began, however we didn’t know he would need to be in treatment for three and a half years. Steven went through four phases of intense chemotherapy treatment. He is on his fifth phase now which is projected to end November 28, of 2020 and 6 months later he will have surgery to remove his port-a-cath.”

“I’ve watched my son lose his hair and go through mental anguish because he is a lot older and very involved in his care. He even made the decisions on how to proceed with his sedation protocol because it’s what he felt was appropriate. Of course we have our input but we respect his wishes because he makes a good point when he says it’s his body and he trusts God. I wish my faith was as strong as his. Steven had to leave school and not engage in any contact sports and his interaction with the world was now limited. For him being so very social and involved in everything the community had to offer, this was devastating for him. This took its toll on our family. We felt alone and scared. Our community showed us the most immeasurable amount of support financially and emotionally and the support is still as strong as when he was first diagnosed to this day.”

“Steven reached remission after his first phase of induction! The best news was that his MRD (minimal residual disease) was a .006 ! We were so happy but devastated that he still had to continue with the worst to come of chemo treatments. I watched him lose weight, lose his hair, lose his humor and go into a dark place at times. He couldn’t eat and he just wanted to be normal. We spent so much time in the hospital that we decided to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and do what we could to help others because eventhough to be frank, our life sucked at the moment, we still were breathing while others took their last breath and didn’t wake up that morning. We started looking at all the wonderful things people did to help us and we decided we wanted to help heal ourselves by helping others who found themselves in the same predicament as us.”

“So began our blood drives, t-shirt sales, bike runs, and we appreciated our life so much more even though we wanted nothing more than to be a pre-diagnosis dysfunctional normal family again. We know that even though we are going through this and have a long road ahead, we have a platform that can be used to bring awareness and Steven wants to use his voice to bring awareness to pediatric cancer. We have seen the devastation of a child losing their life at such a tender age more than once. That affected Steven and his sister to the point where they argue about who is going to bring more awareness and who will be the doctor that finds the cure, Steven or Eva. We never knew the severity and the increasing rates of pediatric cancer so we want to use our platform and with the help of our community bring awareness to this cause. We never know what others are going through, some would love to have our bad days. Currently Steven is in in the maintenance phase of chemo. He takes chemo every day and on Wednesdays he takes a double dosage of chemo. He takes anti-seizure medication daily called Keppra after suffering a seizure from methotrexate toxicity to his brain after a spinal tap. He coded last March after contracting RSV. He couldn’t breathe and I tried to keep him breathing until the paramedics came. He coded on his way there and when we got there I heard the words on the hospital intercom “CODE BLUE 1st floor ER module 2.” I was screaming for my son trying to take it all in trying to stay aware to give the doctor any info I could provide for them. He was intubated unsuccessfully until the 3rd time. They said they may have to take other measures if the third try didn’t work. I prayed and said to them just do it. Try again. They did and it worked.”

“Looking back I see how strong Steven is, how much passion he has for helping others and know it’s our calling. In just a few days we will be having a bike run to help two families whose daughters are battling leaukemia. We decided to give back and help others because so many helped us without hesitation. We have met amazing survivors, fighters and angel families who all have stories to tell and voices to be heard. It’s our hope to be able to help, share and bring awareness and help each other crush cancer one day at a time, one kind act a time. We will continue to give back and find people to give blood and who want to make a difference as long as God allows us. Steven’s motto is “with pain comes strength” and that is what we live by.”

Wendy Davidson- Steven’s mother

Instagram: @shuugaa_shuugaa

You-tube: “Teaser!Steven Davidson- Lowrider Roll Models”

Paypal: www.paypal.me/teamsteven

Cancer Survivor Stories

Aiden’s Story

“April 15th, 2018 I took Aiden to his Pediatrician for a checkup, he was constipated for several days, along with his appetite decreasing. I started noticing he was having issues using the restroom especially at night. He would wake up from pushing so hard. May 12th. 2018, Aiden was running and fell on his bottom, developed a bump on his butt. I took him to the ER that same night to make sure that nothing was broken, everything checked out fine. Forty-eight hours later, I took him to his pediatrician again for a follow-up because I had noticed his “bump” getting larger, red and was now hot. The pediatrician told me it was a “hematoma” (A solid swelling of a clotted blood within the tissues). To make sure, I iced it. A few days later, Aiden was not walking and he started to sleep more. Aiden started to spike fevers, he was not eating anymore, his “bump” was now so large that he couldn’t even sit in his car seat. I decided to take him back to the ER, but this time to another hospital.”

“June 25th. The ER doctor told me we were going to be transferred to Miller’s Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, CA. At this point Aiden was in so much pain, they needed to give him morphine. CT Scans were done, we were waiting and waiting. Still no Answers.”

“June 26th. 2018 at 2pm. The oncologist walked in, he asked me to take a seat and asked me if I was aware why my son had been admitted. My heart was racing, my anxiety level was high. The dreaded words that no mother or family should ever have to hear “your son has cancer”.”

“Aiden Rodriguez, 18 Months, diagnosed with a stage IV cancer, called Germ Cell Tumor. I froze, my body went into shock, I remember this like it was yesterday. I remember his mouth moving and hearing nothing come out. The first question I asked was “what stage is he, and what are his chances of living?””

“My son was 18 months old when he diagnosed with a stage IV cancer, called Germ Cell Tumor. The term “germ cell” comes from the term “germinate,” which means giving life. In humans, germ cells produce specialized cells needed for reproduction: sperm cells in boys and egg cells in girls.”

“Aiden’s tumor is a sacrococcygeal teratomas, a mass that protrudes around the anus. However, these tumors can also be internal, in which case they may grow unnoticed for many months and may become malignant. Internal tumors may cause constipation, urinary retention and pain. (This is exactly what Aiden experienced).”

“June 30th. 2018 we started his first round of chemotherapy. Aiden’s treatment consisted of four rounds of chemo. Each round was 5 consecutive days. With three different types of chemotherapy medications: cisplatin, etoposide and bleomycin.”

“I had no idea what was happening, what to think, how to get through this. All I knew is that I needed to save my son’s life. We stood in the hospital for 40 days straight; we had completed two rounds of chemotherapy while we were admitted for those 40 days. This was a full time job; I lived at the hospital with Aiden. I witnessed my helpless 18 month old in so much pain and agony. Vomiting, pain, screaming, yelling, terrified. I was broken. “Why him? Not me?” All these emotions, anger, mixed feelings surfaced.”

“September 11th. 2018. Aiden’s 2nd birthday and last round of chemotherapy. It was a double celebration. We were almost at the finish line.”

“When Aiden first was diagnosed. His tumor surrounded his anus, entire pelvis and 20 nodules on his lungs.”

“Fast-forward to October 11. 201th. “SCANIEXTY” We were redoing all of Aiden’s scans to see how his chemotherapy took. Results were in. All 20 nodules on his lungs-GONE! His tumor surrounding his pelvis-COMPLETELY GONE!!!! All that was left was the remaining of the tumor surrounding his tailbone and anus.”

“November 17th. 2018, surgery Day, the day we finally remove the remainder of his tumor.”

“Cancer affects the entire family, I have two teenage boys that I did not get to see or spend time with them.However, what got me through this nightmare was the love, support from people all over the world. Especially from the moms going through the similar situation that I was in. I had so many people reach out to me that it was overwhelming at first, so many questions where being asked and so many people were asking to help. I could not even wrap my head around any of it. I just wanted my son to beat this Monster.”

“My advice to other parents that are dealing with this same situation is be the voice, be the spokesperson, be the advocate of your child’s diagnosis. Read, study, ask questions, and write down what happens to your child every round of chemo so you know how to take preventative measures the next round.”

“Cisplatin gave Aiden 2nd degree burns, every single time. I knew every round once chemo started what I needed to do in order for him not to breakout in 2nd degree burns anymore. I prepared the doctors, nurses and wound care team every round. I promise you it will get easier. Remember to breathe, eat, sleep, read, and most importantly take the help when offered. Step out of the hospital, get some fresh air. You need to be mentally strong every round. No round is ever the same. I knew when Aiden had chemo he would be down for 2-3 weeks. Minimize the home visits; don’t let anyone around your child if they are sick. Put comfortable clothes on them, have their favorite blanket, pillow, stuff animal with them.”

“The aftermath is just as hard, I would be lying to you if I did not say I am still scared every single time we have to get his tumor markers done. Aiden developed PTSD, he suffered from nightmares. I mean who wouldn’t right?? How do you explain to a 2 year what is going on, it’s been 3 months since we have been in remission. We have our good days and our bad days. I recommend seeing a psychiatrist for you and your child; group therapy helped my oldest boy’s cope with everything.”

“Last, but not least. You are NOT alone! No one fights alone. We are a family; we are here to support you.”

Crystal Rodriguez- Aiden Rodriguez’ Mom

Instagram: @Aidenstrong0911

Aiden, March 2019
Cancer Survivor Stories

Dylan’s Fight Against Brain Cancer

“My son was a freshman in college in April 2016 and had just been home for spring break three weeks prior to the diagnosis. He seemed perfectly fine with no symptoms. Two weeks later, he sent me a text saying “I’m having trouble sleeping.” He said that whenever he laid on his left side, he became extremely dizzy and would have to sit up. I asked if he had any other symptoms and he said no. He had a cold/cough the week before, so I said it must be an ear infection. Easy, right? I told him to go to the campus doctor to get checked and get antibiotics for his obvious ear infection. He said he didn’t have time. A couple days later I checked back in on him and he said he was still experiencing this but it “wasn’t so bad and that he would go to the doctor if it got worse.” A week after the initial text, he told me he woke up vomiting. That’s when I urged him to go to the doctor. The campus doctor said he appeared fine physically and sent him home with an anti-nausea medication and told him to come back in the morning to let her know if it helped or not. She said if it didn’t, she would like to order a CT scan. I went with him the next day for the CT scan as he was nervous. We waited two hours for the results. I can vividly remember the doctor coming in the room, eyes wide open, ears red, and voice shaking. “There is a mass on your brain.” I sobbed. Being told your child has cancer is an indescribable pain. Our lives were forever changed in that moment. Two days later, at the hospital to meet with a brain surgeon and get an MRI, my son became violently ill. The surgeon feared the tumor was growing rapidly and placed him in the ICU and was able to get his vomiting to stop. He had emergency surgery the next morning and they successfully removed 98-99% of the tumor. It was confirmed cancerous, Medulloblastoma.”

” His treatment plan consisted of six weeks of radiation along with Vincristine, then nine rounds over the course of a year of inpatient chemotherapy where he received Vincristine, Cisplatin, Lumostine, and Cyclophosphamide. What helped him physically during chemo was staying on top of his anti-nausea medications. Around the clock, he was given multiple different medications: benadryl, atavin, kytril, a patch behind his ear (scopolamine patch), steroids, emend, etc. It was a full time job for me to keep on top of this in order to keep him from vomiting. However, mentally he was struggling. He was an active nineteen year old with his whole life just beginning and suddenly, this. He was stuck at home or in the hospital while all of his peers were living life. He was extremely scared and anxious on how his body would handle the chemo and fearful of the tumor returning. We were able to address this with a psychiatrist trained on treating young adults going thru cancer and placed him on a medication (Remeron) that helped him tremendously during treatment.”

“What helped me as a parent was, I joined a Facebook page called “Parents of kids with Medulloblastoma” and immediately began looking for the survivor stories. The success stories. I needed to feel hope and be encouraged. I started talking to other cancer moms. We all have the same fears. We just want our kids to survive, to be happy, and to live life. We joined a local group called “A Special Wish” Not only do they grant kids a “big wish” but they also give “sparkles of joy” throughout your journey. They sent us out to dinner, basketball games, football games, special events, anything to provide some joy during the most difficult time of your life. We celebrated everything, big or small. I made sure that the weekend before an inpatient stay, we would do something fun. Either a nice dinner or an outing. Because we never knew what the next round would do to him and we knew his counts would crash and he wouldn’t be allowed in public for a while.”

“My advice for other parents is to do your research, become an expert on your child’s cancer. Take notes, keep a journal. I had a list of questions for the oncologist almost every visit. Become an advocate for your child. I relied heavily on a pocket calendar to keep track of all the appointments, as there will be many. Take whatever help you can get in the beginning as far as meals, errands, babysitting your other kids, etc. You will be completely overwhelmed and so focused on your cancer child and any help is greatly appreciated. Keep a bag packed for those unexpected hospital admissions. We also started bringing our own pillows/blankets for admissions to feel some comfort from home. Reach out to other parents going thru the same. Nobody else will understand you like they will. Take lots and lots of pictures to look back at once treatment is over so you can remind yourself how far you’ve all come. I now volunteer for “A Special Wish”, as it was important for me to give back, and especially to help other parents in the trenches of cancer.”

Stacy Slovett, Dylan’s mother.

Instagram: @slovett04

Cancer Survivor Stories

Surviving Through Cancer

The night our son was diagnosed with cancer, was the first of many nights that I did not sleep. I stayed up that night fervently searching the internet for childhood cancer survivor stories of other children with my son’s same brain tumor. Thankfully I came across other families who had shared their children’s cancer journey online.I even reached out to two other mothers that night to help shine some light on what our journey might entail. Even though I am a registered nurse and spent a year working on an adult oncology unit, any possibly information you may already know goes out the window the moment you hear “your child has cancer.” Both of those mothers replied to me within hours of me sending them a message and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for their words of encouragement, being so open about sharing their own personal journey and being that light of hope that I needed when all else was darkness.

While we were still inpatient with our son, his dad and I found a Facebook support group page called “Parents of kids with Medulloblastoma.” This is a private group of parents all around the world with children who have been diagnosed with this type of brain tumor. This page has served as a platform for parents to share their experiences, fears, valuable information they have obtained,their victories and ask questions. It has been an outlet for so many to be able to connect with other parents in the same situation, because who else truly understands what you are going through than them. Regardless of what type of cancer you or your child may have, I assure you there is some type of support group out there for you to connect with. It does not necessarily have to be online, some you may find within the hospital or out in the community. I highly encourage you seek this type of support, it truly helps to connect with others who are currently dealing with the same diagnosis or have already been through this journey. Although loved ones are always great support and much needed, these individuals will connect with you in a way no one else will be able to. They share your exact fears, questions, doubts, anxiety and so many other emotions.

In the days that followed after our son was discharged home, his dad and I also decided that I would create an Instagram page to document our son’s journey. We decided it would be the best way to be able to keep our family and friends up to date instead of trying to answer hundreds of text messages or phone calls on a daily basis. As much as we wanted to personally thank everyone for all their thoughts and prayers, it was truly overwhelming for us as we were inundated with messages. For me,creating the Instagram page also meant that I would be able to carry a timeline of Anthony’s journey and have it serve as a fragment of my memoir during this time of our lives. Early on we did not realize what an impact our son’s Instagram account would have on others, to the point of reaching thousands of people worldwide who have following his story along with us.

These social media platforms have truly made way for us to connect with other families dealing with childhood cancer. It is honestly one of the things that have helped me cope and hold on to hope and my faith during times fear has tried to settle in. These individuals know exactly what you are going through and will be one of your most important pillars of hope, knowledge and strength throughout this journey. We have even been blessed to meet some of these families and their cancer warriors in person which have become like family.

Once you walk the path of cancer, the journey is truly never over. Now that our son has completed his treatment and is in remission, I feel that it is our turn to pay it forward and be an inspiration of hope to others who perhaps have just been diagnosed, are in treatment,in remission or even relapsed. In addition to that, the next following pages are cancer survivor stories of other warriors. Everyone you meet along the way will leave an imprint on your soul and we all have something that we can take away from others. Sometimes we simply need a reminder that everything will be okay and someone out there has been in your exact shoes. I hope this space serves to give you that extra bit of hope you made need and make this journey an easier one to walk. After all, no one fights alone!

*If you have a cancer survivor story you would like me to share, please send it to me here.