There are 87 families in our group, although we know of many more in the area who aren’t apart of our group. The majority of families live in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties although a few are in outlying counties. The top three types of cancers in our group are leukemia, lymphomas, and Wilms tumors. The remaining are divided up amongst 16 other types of cancer
- approximately 16% of our kids are in active treatment
- 16% of our children who have passed away
Meet Jace, a local child who was passed away from cancer.
Jace was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on December 18, 2016. He was 2 years old. He underwent Chemo, Tumor Resection, Tandem Stem Cell Rescue & Radiation before being deemed NED (no evidence of disease) in November 2017. Two short months later, we were faced with a relapse. While there weren’t many treatment options available for relapsed Neuroblastoma at our home hospital, there were out of state treatment options. Due to insurance regulations, we were not able to take him to another state to seek treatment. Many parents are faced with the dilemma of not being able to afford different types of treatment options that are not covered under insurance; this is where research comes in. Unfortunately, Jace was not able to recover from his relapse and he passed away on June 8, 2018 at 2:30 am. Jace loved watches and if you ever asked him what time it was, he would always say 2:30. It will forever be 2:30.
Meet Abby, a local teen who was diagnosed with cancer while away at college….
My youngest daughter Abby was working at ECU for summer orientation. She began complaining of neck/back pain and trouble breathing. We figured it was a muscle strain from lifting and carrying boxes for orientation. After a visit to the ECU clinic, she was prescribed muscle relaxers. But the pain and breathing difficulties became worse. We thought maybe she was having an allergic reaction to the medicine. So on June 15, 2019 at 10:00pm my oldest daughter Alexis took Abby to Vidant ER in Greenville, NC. I asked if she wanted me to come and she said no just wait. They whisked her right in and began running tests to make sure it wasn’t her heart. The EKG was fine but her x-ray was not. A scan was performed and in the middle of the night, on Father’s Day, I received a call from Alexis crying, “Mommy they found a mass, come now!” You see, Abby was 19 years old. She is technically an adult. Not knowing Alexis was her sister, they asked Alexis to step out and told Abby they had found a mass and she was being admitted into the cancer center. And that is how this journey began. Scans and biopsies were done. Surgery to remove Albert (what Abby named her tumor) was scheduled for July 1st. A 4-hour surgery turned into an 8-hour nightmare. But Dr. Oliver and an amazing medical team didn’t give up. Each person in that OR had a child or grandchild Abby’s age and when one would say “we’ve done all we can…close her up”, another would say “no let’s try this”. They were all Abby’s angels. By mid-July, after many biopsies and cell spinning we got a call, “come to Vidant today to begin treatment, it is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Abby’s treatment will be 2 ½ to 3 years”. She is under a pediatric protocol which is a positive for the most part, but we do fall into that forgotten group of AYA’s (Adolescent and Young Adult cancer patients.) Too old for the “kid stuff” and too old for Make-A-Wish Foundation, but too young for cancer support groups for the 25-35 group. The physical piece has been heartbreaking & grueling but the mental piece has been just as traumatizing. Abby remained at ECU (they have been awesome.) She attended online classes (this was before Covid) as a sophomore and lived in the Nursing Village dorm with her roommate. Treatment was at Vidant, 10 minutes away from her dorm but her father and I would still make the drive from Leland to come to treatment with her. We couldn’t ask for a better oncologist team to support us, educate us, and to love us! But the star in this all is Abby. She is truly a warrior, she will roll her eyes. To look back over the past year leaves me speechless. Dealing with side effects from chemo while listening to the ECU football stadium out her dorm window, to losing her hair twice, to a roller coaster of side effects from one month to the next, to taking a final exam while in the ER with a fever, to most recently testing negative for Covid while her friends all tested positive. Some people never meet their hero. I gave birth to mine. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month AND Lymphoma Awareness Month”.
Meet Dakota, a local child who beat cancer…
Hello my name is Dakota. I was diagnosed with leukemia in March of 2017, when I was just 3 years old. I battled cancer for three years and WON!! With the support of family and friends, I was able to ring the bell in May of 2020. I had numerous surgeries and procedures done during this time and had to be very brave. At one point, my kidneys started shutting down, and I even became unresponsive. That really scared my family. I am now a survivor, and I want everyone to know about my journey. I now play football, just like my big brother. I love running around and not having my cords to stop me. I love eating whatever I want and trusting I won’t throw it up in a few seconds. I love growing out my hair, knowing it won’t fall out tomorrow. I love knowing I am ALIVE and I can live and not be in pain every day. I am Dakota the Warrior!
Meet Noah, a local teen who was diagnosed with cancer…
In 2019, Noah was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 17 at the time. He went through 5 cycles of chemo and 14 days of radiation. He is now in remission and has started college. You can read more about Noah’s story on his Facebook page “Noah’s journey.”
Meet Micah, a local teen who was diagnosed with cancer and had to travel to Maryland for treatment.
Micah was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 16 years old. She was referred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Maryland for surgery where she had her thyroid and 17 lymph nodes removed on January 29, 2019. After surgery, she received two rounds of radiation. Micah is now in college and continues to be under the care of her endocrinologist.
Meet Brayden, a local child who passed away from cancer…
Brayden Thomas Jones was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with DIPG – a rare brain tumor that has a 0% chance of survival. The only treatment was 6 weeks of radiation and strong doses of steroids to prolong his life. Brayden lived for 6 months past his diagnosis. We had to live in Chapel Hill and take him to UNC for almost 8 weeks while he underwent radiation and had to be sedated for every treatment.
Meet Sean, a local child living with the side effects of his battle with cancer….
Sean was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in June 2011. He was 3 years old. It started with him turning completely white with a low grade fever on a Friday afternoon. I scooped him up and we snuggled as his color came back within a couple minutes. We didn’t think much about it, as his two brothers had just recovered from the stomach bug. On Saturday morning, his fever was lower, but he had symptoms of asthma – something I recognized quickly as my older son had it when he was young. I took Sean to our local urgent care for what I thought would be a quick trip for a breathing treatment. The doctor checked him out and gave him half a treatment, but it didn’t help. He gave Sean the other half and again no improvement. He then did bloodwork. Sean’s white count was over 20,000. Off we went to the ER. They took him back and immediately put him on oxygen and started an IV. Tests were done throughout the night and eventually a softball-size tumor was discovered in his chest. My husband and I were told he had cancer and that UNC was already on the way to get him. Sean endured a year of treatment, chemo, radiation, several surgeries and infusions. Three ribs and a partial lower left lung were removed. Sean is now 12 years old. He must always wear a chest protector over to heart to serve the purpose of the ribs that were removed. He cannot participate in any sports or recess at school. He will have chest reconstruction surgery when he turns 16. Since finishing treatment, he has endured 3 oral surgeries as a result of chemo stunting the growth of his adult teeth. Childhood cancer can have many side effects and Sean seems to have a lot of them. He is one of the strongest kiddos I know and doesn’t complain too often. Sean enjoys messing with his brothers, cares deeply for his friends, plays video games and enjoys Legos and drawing!
Meet Skylar – a local teen who received a groundbreaking new treatment to help him win his battle against cancer.
Two days before Thanksgiving 2016, Skylar was running a low grade fever, had some bruising, and was tired. We decided to take him to Masonboro Urgent Care to see what was wrong. They tested for strep, the flu, and pneumonia. They were all negative. The doctor decided to draw blood and called later that day to tell me that his white blood counts were abnormal and to return the next day for a follow up. The next day, we had his blood tested again. Later that afternoon, the doctor called and told us to pack our bags and to immediately rush to UNC Chapel Hill, that he believed that Skylar had a form of leukemia. Later that night, UNC Chapel Hill Doctors diagnosed my son with ALL Leukemia. Treatment began immediately. We were allowed to return home, but a few weeks later, some of the chemo had increased his blood sugar levels to over 600 so he was airlifted from NHRMC to UNC Chapel Hill and was placed in the ICU for a few days. As the months passed by, he was still not in remission and had another ground transportation from NHRMC to Chapel Hill via ambulance due to a fever. The doctors began to discuss a BMT (bone marrow transplant) as the chemo alone was not curing him from his cancer. I reached out to a childhood friend, Christopher Keir, from Wilmington who is a pediatric oncologist specializing in Leukemia that works for Novartis in NYC. He informed me of a revolutionary treatment, CAR-T Immunotherapy, that he was involved with in Philadelphia that could be another option. After assistance from this friend and the doctors at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), my son was admitted into their trial and began treatment in August of 2017. This treatment is where they cycle your blood and then inject your B cells with a type of agent and grow it in the lab. It was then injected into his body with the goal that these new T cells would attack all of his B cells, which is where leukemia lives. This treatment worked and as of June 2020 we celebrated his 3 years cancer free! This treatment also alleviated the need for the standard 3 years of chemo that most ALL leukemia patients receive. We are so grateful that this treatment has been so successful with our son. He was able to return to school, remove his port, and go back to as normal as possible. Throughout this whole process, Skylar received several bags of blood and platelets to keep him alive and healthy and we are so grateful for the anonymous donors who made this happen. Skylar turned 19 on September 20, 2020 and lives like any other 19-year-old would.
Meet Carson, a child from our area who passed away while battling cancer.
Carson was diagnosed with Leukemia (T-ALL) a couple of weeks after celebrating his 5th birthday. He received treatment at UNC for 7 months when he passed unexpectedly of a brain hemorrhage. He was in remission when he passed. He endured hospital stays, lots of new, strange, scary things – but was so strong and inspired so many. He is forever our superhero.
Meet Ada, a local child who was diagnosed with cancer….
Ada was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in April 2019. She had a small orange-sized tumor wrapped around her right femur. She was 12 years old. She underwent many, many weeks of chemotherapy treatments until August 5th of the same year. They removed 15 cm of her right femur and grafted in a donor bone. The tumor is now gone. She began the last 12 cycles of chemo to catch any possible stray cancer cells. She began to learn how to walk on her right leg again. Her last chemo treatment was in April of 2020. She has been cancer free for about 8 months. Ada’s faith in God has gotten her through all that she’s gone through so far. The faith and generosity of countless numbers of people who have been praying for her and given so much of themselves in so many ways has helped us through this journey with Ada.
Meet Maddie, a local child who passed away from cancer…
Maddie was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer when she was 5 years old. She fought through 2 relapses before passing away just after her 9th birthday. Maddie was a gymnast, dancer and talented artist. She is missed dearly by her family. She was our bright star and always had a smile for everyone. She loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up to take care of sick animals.
Meet Abigail – a local teen who was diagnosed with a rare cancer…
On September 7, 2016, Abigail was flown to UNC Children’s Hospital due to a dangerously low platelet count. There, she was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, a cancer that is extremely rare in adults and even more rare in children. The doctor had to contact other hospitals to get the protocol for treatment. Over the course of the next eight months, she was given massive amounts of chemo which included Tretinoin, an acne medicine, and Arsenic. In addition to the usual side effects of chemo, she endured grueling headaches and had to see specialists due to swelling of her optic nerves. Although the chemo is done and the doctor is nearly 100% sure the leukemia will not return, Abigail suffers from the after effects of the cancer and the treatment. Most people don’t realize that once the fight for life is won, that there are long-lasting effects and for kids that means lifelong effects.
Meet Stella, a local child who was just 15 months old when she began her battle with cancer….
It all started on Thanksgiving night 2012 after we had had a delicious meal and a relaxing day at my parents’ farm. We heard Stella cry out just after we had put her to bed and she became inconsolable. She was 15 months old. We eventually ended up in the small town ER late that night and after a few hours of tests and x-rays, we thought we had it figured out as just a typical toddler illness and went home to sleep—only to be awakened an hour later by her piercing cries. A typical illness would not be the case. Over the next few days she got worse and and ran a continuous fever and seemed to be in pain, so we made the first of a few trips to the pediatricians’ office to try to determine the cause of her illness. There were several “diagnoses” over those days: ear infections, constipation, etc. Finally, one of the doctors she saw sent her directly to the local hospital for bloodwork. Once we got those results, she was sent directly to UNC Children’s Hospital for further testing. On November 27, 2012, Stella was diagnosed with leukemia. We didn’t find out until the following day what type—which turned out to be the “better” type—Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). But with a twist: “high risk” B-cell due to a gene mutation in her cancer cells. She spent about 2 ½ years in chemotherapy treatment and endured several surgeries and so many hospitalizations during that time along with seemingly countless blood transfusions and IV transfusions. There were constant ups and downs—even a relapse scare at one point. And her story has a happy “ending” because it’s now been over five years since she completed chemo and she is nine years old and doing well! But I use happy “ending” loosely because there’s always a chance of relapse or health issues or secondary cancers that could surface later due to having leukemia and/or going through chemotherapy. For example, we know that she is at a higher risk for heart issues due to a medicine that she received in treatment. But, she is here with us now and thriving. Some children who we were privileged to know are not. And it breaks my heart again and again.
Meet Lily – giver of the best hugs in Wilmington and childhood cancer survivor.
Lily was 5 years old when she was diagnosed with ALL leukemia. She initially complained of pain which lead to testing. 6 weeks later, we found out she had compression fractures in her lower spine from leukemia. Lily has Downs Syndrome so she had to be monitored closely during certain phases of treatment. We would stay at UNC for a full month at a time to protect her immune system from harm. She tried to start kindergarten, but fractured her leg trying to keep up. Lily turned 9 in July and we are happy to say she is 1 year and 9 months free of treatment! We whole heartily thank the crew at NHRMC and UNC Chapel Hill for giving Lily so much attention and love that she never once was afraid to go!!
Meet Natali – another local child diagnosed with Wilms tumor…..
Natali was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor at the age of 5. The tumor had completely taken over her right kidney, but there were no warning signs. Natali fell while playing on the playground at daycare one afternoon, which put her in a lot of abdominal pain. The pain worsened, along with vomiting and fever. We took her to the ER and they found the tumor had ruptured. She was flown to UNC Chapel Hill for emergency surgery. The surgeon had to take her right kidney, right lymph node, and her appendix. She then began radiation and chemo. Although the treatments are over, we continue to go for check-ups that include MRIs, ultrasounds, x-rays, and blood work. Her check-ups will continue for the rest of her life. She is a thriving 10-year-old now, and a normal child with some restrictions to contact sports. As parents, we have ongoing concerns of the major side effects from the treatments.
Meet Carter, a local child who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 9 months old.
This is Carter. He was born 5 years ago today. He was diagnosed with Extrarenal Metastatic Rhabdoid Tumor at the age of 9 months. The tumor filled his belly, lungs, and brain. Carter experienced several rounds of chemo and fought so hard. He passed away on Oct 13, 2016, shortly after turning one year old. He was loved by everyone he met, his eyes sparkled, and his laugh was contagious. His smile was unforgettable. He is missed so much.
Meet Lexi – a local child who was diagnosed with cancer and had to travel to Massachusetts for treatment…
Lexi first began exhibiting symptoms of a sinus infection a couple of weeks after her 10th birthday. Shortly after these symptoms started, the doctor noticed a lump in the roof of her mouth. After a biopsy, we learned Lexi had Rhabdomyosarcoma – a tumor in her nasopharynx. She endured 6 weeks of proton therapy at Boston Mass and 40 weeks of chemotherapy. Lexi is now 15 years old and has been celebrating clear scans for the past four years!
Meet Gabriel, a local child who passed away from cancer…
This is Gabriel. He was born a happy, healthy, boy on August 18, 2013. At the age of 2, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and a broviac was quickly placed. Gabriel went through 5 rounds of chemo as he celebrated his 3rd birthday and welcomed a new baby sister. He then had surgery to remove any trace of cancer they could safely, then more rounds of high dose chemo followed by stem cell transplant. Next, came radiation. All of this on top of shots and medications that came with the numbers game of cancer. His last stage of treatment was immunotherapy. Finally, we were able to come home. Gabriel spent almost all of age 3 in Chapel Hill; between the UNC Children’s and an apartment provided by the Super Cooper foundation. Gabriel had his broviac taken out and his swimming and long baths/showers began – along with almost a year of being a healthy 4-year-old. Aside from the check-up pokes and scans, he was able to enjoy his family and loved everyone (except the bad guys!). Gabriel was beautiful inside and out. He was able to begin school and made a classroom full of friends before his cancer suddenly returned. He was able to squeeze in almost eight months. He wanted to do everything and be everything and be super fast. He wanted everyone to be happy. Five years didn’t allow all his goals to happen, but he was able to inspire others to do more.
Meet Deliah, a local child currently battling cancer…….
Deliah often complained about frontal headaches. After a few months of no relief, I wanted answers. Deliah was referred to a local neurologist who ordered an MRI. August 9th, 2019 our world came crashing down. We got a phone call saying our 7-year-old daughter Deliah needed to be rushed to UNC from New Hanover. She had a brain tumor and a team of doctors were waiting on us. We later found out it was two tumors and hydrocephalus. (Fluid on the brain). She had two brain surgeries in a month. One tumor was able to be resected and the other remains. Pathology took six excruciating weeks to come back. A year later, we still don’t have all the answers. St. Jude’s told us they weren’t able to grade the tumor and gave the diagnosis of “Astrocytoma, Not Otherwise Specified”. She also has a rare genetic mutation, ALK gene. It is typically found in adult lung cancer. Deliah has 8 more infusions left as long as she remains stable. However, ending treatment gives us so many mixed emotions. Treatment is like a security blanket. The future ahead is unsettling. There is still a chance of growth and we start the nightmare all over. You can follow Deliah’s story on her Facebook page “DeliahBrave.”
Meet Liam – a local child who passed away from cancer at the age of 6 months.
Liam was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, AT/RT. He underwent two 12-hour brain surgeries to remove the tumor. We also did one full round of chemo and started a second round, only to find that he wasn’t responding to treatment. He lost his battle after 3 months. Liam was only 6 months old.
Meet Abigail – the second of two local children diagnosed with the same rare kidney cancer during the same week in 2014.
It seemed like a normal Friday … until it wasn’t. We were just a couple minutes from home, after a long day of school, errands and carpool duty. Abigail had fallen asleep in the car and woke with a startling, shrieking, piercing cry. She was completely inconsolable and in immeasurable pain. Every mother knows her child’s cry, but this particular one was foreign and I didn’t know how to translate it. We ended up at the NHMRC Emergency Department that evening, and little did we know, that our precious 4-yr old little girl would be the worst case the ER that night. After enduring many tests with no answers, the doctor ordered a CT scan and the results changed our lives forever. The doctor was waiting for us (and lets be honest, that’s not typical) and he told us it was very good we brought Abigail in that night. I wish I could go back to this exact moment, and soak up the last moments our life was without cancer, if only I knew to enjoy that time just a little more. Then the words came, “I’m sorry. Your daughter has cancer.” Have you ever listened to the teacher talking to good ‘ol Charlie Brown (cartoon reference), and whenever the teacher talks, you can’t understand a single word she says? Well, after the doctor told me Abigail had cancer, everything else that followed might as well been in a different language because I couldn’t focus on anything. Fast-forward a few hours and Abigail was now being treated at UNC Chapel Hill and had her very own oncologist assigned to her (we were whisked away via ambulance). Abigail was diagnosed with Stage V bi-lateral Wilms Tumor (kidney cancer in both kidneys) that had already metastasized to both lungs. Only approximately 50 children are diagnosed with bi-lateral Wilms Tumor per year. In a flash, her innocent childhood was robbed from her. Abigail quickly started an intense regimen of chemotherapy, endured several surgeries (one lasting over 10 hours), and endured full lung and abdominal radiation (at the age of 4, she had her max amount of radiation for life). It was a long battle, but Abigail is now considered a survivor because she has been cancer free for 5 years. While cancer free is a reason to celebrate and we are thankful, it doesn’t mean she is done. An oncologist will follow Abigail with close medical follow-up for life by checking blood work, watching her heart and kidney functions very carefully (because while chemo kills cancer, it’s super tough on your heart) and watching out for chronic health problems. At the age of 10, Abigail has already leveraged her cancer diagnosis for things positive because she wants to help make a change! She helps raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research; she helps raise funds for Make-a-Wish Eastern NC, because she knows first hand how the power of a wish can help heal; and she shares her story to help bring awareness to our need for clean water!
Meet Nathan, the first of two local children diagnosed with the same rare kidney cancer during the same week in 2014.
Nathan was enjoying preschool at 4 years old when his teacher called to tell me he had blood in his urine. For a few weeks, the doctors thought he had a UTI of some sort, even though there was no bacteria present. When it wouldn’t clear up, they decided to send us to a nephrologist in Chapel Hill. Not wanting to wait a month or two to be seen, I requested he have an ultrasound here locally. I’ll never forget the call I got with the results of that ultrasound. My baby had cancer, and we needed to be at Chapel Hill pediatric oncology the next day. The next few days were a blur – many tests were run and it was determined that Nathan had Stage IV Wilm’s kidney cancer which had spread to his lungs. Wilms affects approximately 500 children each year in the US. The tumor had already grown outside his kidney and up the blood vessels to begin to enter his heart, making it inoperable at that point. The hope was that chemotherapy would shrink it enough to operate, and so he went to surgery the next day to implant a port and begin chemotherapy. After weeks of chemo, the tumor had shrunk enough for them to attempt surgery and so he had his entire kidney removed and the blood vessel scraped to remove left over tumor growth. Then came more chemo plus radiation to his chest and abdomen. After a few months of treatment, we found out that Nathan showed no evidence of disease! Now, 6 years later, he is considered cured! We are so incredibly grateful and blessed, but his battle is not over. For the children that are lucky enough to survive childhood cancer, the battle is never over. Nathan has blood work and urine checks and heart echocardiograms every year. That is because, like other survivors, he is at risk for secondary cancers caused by the harsh treatments he received. He is also at high risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, scoliosis, bowel obstructions, and more–all because of the treatments he needed to survive. He’s not allowed to play contact sports, he has strange bony growths on his chest and back from radiation, and he can’t go shirtless at the beach because that radiated skin is prone to burn. He can’t take Ibuprofen because of having one kidney and his teeth didn’t all form properly. I don’t mention these things often because we are so grateful for every day we get with him, but since it is September and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I want to stress the need for research to make things better for those kids who are still fighting. If you follow our group page, you have seen the statistics about how severely underfunded childhood cancer is, how there have been few or no new cancer drugs for children in a very long time, how the same drugs adults get are used on children, how many survivors live with lifelong health problems, and how many children simply don’t survive.
Meet Gabby, a local child who was diagnosed with cancer…
During the last week of school in 2016, Gabby ran into a wall and she developed a tumor in her mouth so big that it distorted her face. She was diagnosed with a cyst until they did surgery and the doctor came out and apologized saying he had no idea what it was so he cut a piece off and sent it for a biopsy. When we got the results, we found out that our sweet, otherwise healthy, 6-year-old Gabby had cancer. We were admitted to UNC at Chapel Hill and after many tests, we discovered she has a rare type of cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 3 B cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. It was found in her mouth, jaw, stomach and knee. She received 3 years of chemo. This has been the hardest battle our family has had to endure, but we are truly thankful that she is currently cancer free! She received her last dose of chemo December 3, 2019, full of joy as she rang that victory bell. We count each day as a blessing and we are forever grateful for all of the amazing UNC doctors and nurses that cared for her along the way.
Meet Graclyn, a local child currently battling cancer. Graclyn was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of June 2020.
The journey looks different for everyone that goes through this awful disease. We’ve been pretty fortunate so far… four blood transfusions, three platelet transfusions, I’d have to count, but probably close to 90 chemotherapy doses, and five hospital visits with one being our current inpatient stay. That’s in 13 weeks and five days. Read that again. Graclyn has gone through all of that and her journey is considered pretty easy compared to what a lot go through in the first 13 weeks and five days. I’ve seen one precious little girl we follow leave this earth this far too young. I’ve seen another family switch to hospice care in anticipation of the same thing. Yes, this journey is hard for anyone and there are tears, anger, sadness, but perspective changes everything. I’m thankful Graclyn has handled things like a champ. She is so strong and without complaint. She does what she’s supposed to simply out of trust in us and knowing we’re trying to “kill her cancer bugs.” You can follow Graclyn’s journey on her Facebook page “Graclyn’s fight against leukemia”.
Meet Owen, a local child who bravely battled cancer…
Owen was 7 years old when he was diagnosed with GBM (Brain cancer). He underwent a brain biopsy, daily radiation for 6 weeks, took oral chemo and had a port placed. He had regular MRIs at Duke and received multiple blood transfusions. He fought hard and remained joyful through his 15 months of treatment. He celebrated his 9th birthday a few weeks before he passed away.
Meet Jorja, a local child who recently FINISHED her treatment for cancer…
Jorja was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in December 2017 at the age of 3. Soon after treatment began, she contracted a rare life-threatening infection that required multiple surgeries and 5 months of harsh antibiotics to eradicate. Jorja’s treatment for ALL included daily chemotherapy for 26 months with at least once a month trips to Chapel Hill for additional treatment. Due to a constantly suppressed immune system, she spent almost all her time at home, and was frequently inpatient with fevers. Jorja fought cancer with bravery and the best attitude! We are so thankful that she completed treatment in February 2020! She now continues bi-monthly labs and checkups with her oncologist to monitor her carefully for relapse. Childhood cancer changed most everything about our lives, our day to day lives, our finances, and relationships. We have learned so much we would gladly never know. Our hearts have been broken over and over as we have watched other families in our childhood cancer world suffer far more than we ever did. Childhood cancer is cruel and unfair. The treatments often seeming barbaric. We pray for better funding, for better treatment, and for a better future for our smallest warriors. In the photo below, Jorja is wearing a necklace with her “beads of courage”. She has one bead to represent every chemo and procedure she endured during her treatment. It is 29 feet long.
Meet Sadie, a local child who was diagnosed with cancer …
Sadie was 17 months old when she was diagnosed with JMML, an aggressive leukemia. During her 4 ½ years of intense treatment, she endured 2 unsuccessful bone marrow transplants, innumerable amounts of oral and IV chemo, and countless other harsh medicine and procedures. Yet, she always wore a smile and a tiara. She passed away a week before her 6th birthday.
Meet baby Weston, a local child currently battling cancer….
July 28th 2020 started as a normal day. Weston (age 6 months) and I did our normal everyday things, lounging around the house, playing, and napping. We woke from a nap and I proceeded to cook dinner as usual. After dinner, my husband Cody and I were going to go finish some projects that we had started on so I had asked my mother-in-law to watch Weston. Cody went to change Weston and he called my name and seemed concerned. I went to see what he was talking about – Weston’s diaper was full of blood, I instantly packed his diaper and put him in the car and rushed to Novant Brunswick. I thought it might have been from him falling off the bed a few days before as he was just learning to crawl. They did an ultrasound and found a 9cm x 10cm mass on Weston’s left kidney. The doctor said he needed to be transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill as soon as possible. When we arrived at Chapel Hill, the doctors were sure it was a Wilms tumor, something that can be easily treated as it’s one of the most common renal cancers in children; they never said it couldn’t/wouldn’t be Wilms, so everything was in place to get his kidney removed. August 10th 2020, Weston underwent surgery. Everything went well, and he recovered just a few days later. They sent his tumor off so we could get the staging of his tumor and so we would know how his treatment would be moving forward. We waited over a week for results that would change our life more than the diagnosis of Wilms ever could have. Weston was diagnosed with MRT, also known as malignant Rhabdoid tumor— a rare and hard to treat cancer. This changed everything from prognosis all the way down to treatment. Weston has now completed 6 out of 6 days of radiation as of September 1st 2020. He has completed one cycle of aggressive chemo, as well as one clinic visit chemo. Weston has been so strong and brave. Although this has been a lot for his age, he has remained his happy self, always smiling and just being the best baby ever. You can follow Weston’s journey on his Facebook page “Team Weston”.
Meet Jacob – a local child who battled cancer…
Jacob was diagnosed with A.L.L. leukemia when he was 8 years old. He had always been a very healthy boy and it was a total shock when his symptoms turned out to be cancer. Standard treatment for boys with ALL (the most common form of childhood cancer) consists of more than 3 consecutive years of chemo. Jacob received chemo injected into his port, injected into his spine, and daily oral chemo pills for 1,186 consecutive days. Jacob is now 17, in remission and doing well. He still sees his oncologist, cardiologist and orthopedic surgeon once a year to monitor his side effects from the harsh chemo that saved his life. We had no idea we were so “lucky” when Jacob was diagnosed with ALL. So many other forms of childhood cancer have a very small survival rate. Jacob is proof that research saves lives. If he had been diagnosed with ALL in the 60s, he would not have lived. While we are so thankful the chemo worked for him, we also know it doesn’t work for everyone. And the truth is that the chemo is so harsh, that sometimes it kills the child it’s intended to cure. Our family is now committed to helping to raise money for research so that all kids have the same hope that we had.
Meet Hanna, a child from our local support group who battled cancer for 8 years.
Hanna’s cancer story began when she was just 2 years old. She went in for surgery to remove her adenoids and her doctor found a tumor. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. For the next 8 years, her family traveled the country, trying different treatments in an effort to find a cure for Hanna. Hanna passed away on Mothers Day, 2020, a few days before her 11th birthday. Hanna is remembered as being a strong, beautiful, funny, smart, and compassionate girl who loved kittens. She brought so much joy to so many people and she is greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.