Faith sat in her hospital room at Children’s Hospital Colorado after yet another excruciating round of radiation treatment. Her family and nurses had spent days trying to convince her to get out of bed, but Faith felt too exhausted and sick to move.
It was a low point in her year-long cancer battle. And she still had many more months of treatment ahead.
“I just remember being in so much pain and feeling so sad,” Faith said.
Then there was a knock at Faith’s door. It was one of her favorite nurses, Jen.
“I have a surprise for you,” she said.
Jen wheeled Faith to a conference room down the hall. There, several nurses had set up a makeshift “spa,” just for her. One of the nurses used a bedpan to give Faith a pedicure, while the other painted her nails.
“It was during their lunch hour,” Faith said. “Even during the worst times, they always made everything as happy as possible.”
It all started with high fevers in the winter of 2014. Seven-year-old Maya, who loved soccer and math, was not feeling well.
Her pediatrician ran lab work, which showed an abnormal white blood cell count. Something was wrong.
Maya came to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where doctors did a bone marrow biopsy. At first, when the test results came back, Maya’s parents – including her mom, Marci; stepdad, Scott; dad, Michael; and stepmom, Megan — were relieved to learn it wasn’t leukemia. Then came the bad news. They learned that their daughter’s health and future were moving into uncharted territory.
“Our hope for our granddaughter is to live a long and wonderful life,” Blanche Goldenberg says. This is why she and her husband, Steven, give to Children’s Hospital Colorado.
At age 2, the Goldenbergs’ granddaughter, Sylvia, was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a rare, slow-growing brain tumor. Sylvia had surgery at Children’s Colorado to remove the tumor, but her optic nerve had already been severely impacted. Pediatric neurosurgeon Todd Hankinson, MD, removed as much of the tumor as possible to prevent her vision from worsening.
Not only is craniopharyngioma hard to treat, it’s also extremely difficult to study. The tumors are comprised of both solid and cystic components. Because of how they grow, it’s nearly impossible to culture tumor cells and test how they respond to various treatments. In addition, it’s extremely rare – in the United States, only about 120 children are diagnosed each year. Because of this, it’s a little-researched disease with few treatment options.
This fall, 8-year-old Tom headed back to school in Colorado Springs for fourth grade. Like many boys his age, he loves Lego®sets, playing Minecraft and showing off his swimming skills.
But unlike most of his classmates, Tom can’t fend off many of the bugs and germs that lurk in elementary school classrooms, such as chicken pox or whooping cough. He also can’t risk serious crashes on the playground or big falls on the soccer field. And he’ll likely have to miss multiple days of school for doctors’ appointments.
That’s because Tom is still recovering from more than three years of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer.
Myers is an 11-year-old boy with a gap-toothed smile and freckles, but he has the presence of an older soul, with a survivor’s spirit twinkling in his eyes.
“Everyone who meets him says there’s just something about this kid that’s so special,” says his mom, Heather, looking at him with pride.
“Special” doesn’t begin to describe what Myers has overcome in his short life.
When Myers was 2 ½ years old, he started vomiting and acting unusually tired. His family took him to several doctors near their home in Lafayette, Colo. No one could pinpoint the cause, but at the time, his symptoms didn’t seem too concerning. Then Myers’ eyes became crossed, an alarming sign that called for a CT scan.
Nothing could prepare the family for the results. There, in the middle of their son’s brain, was a tumor the size of a golf ball.
Heather had already lost one family member to cancer. Her younger sister, Paige, died of leukemia at age 11.
“I remember thinking, ‘How could this be happening again?’” she says.
From day one, Fynn fought an uphill medical battle against a highly aggressive and difficult-to-treat brain tumor. His fight ended on April 9. To honor Fynn, his family is riding in the Courage Classic this weekend to raise money for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital Colorado.