Stories about: childhood cancer

The many faces of childhood cancer: Steven Clifford

Steven Clifford is an 18-year-old osteosarcoma survivor. A Boston native, he recently started college at the University of California, San Diego. Read Steven’s story then join Boston Children’s Hospital and ABC for a tweet chat on pediatric cancer, with Dr. Richard Besser today at 1 PM. Use the hash tag #abcDrBchat to join the conversation.

Steven

Life is made up of many difficult decisions. However, imagine my surprise when I had to make a tough and potentially life changing decision at the young age of 11. Up until then, I just was an average child who couldn’t wait to get out of school to play any sport imaginable with his friends.

All that came to a close when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in the tibia in my right leg. The innocent days of childhood were washed away, and suddenly I was faced with decisions that can be difficult for a grownup to make, never mind an 11-year-old kid.

One of the biggest choices came pretty early on: What would happen to my leg?  My doctor from Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC), Megan Anderson, MD, explained that I had two options to choose from when it came to surgery: either bone resection (removing the cancerous part of my tibia) or amputation of my leg.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Sarah Levin

Sarah Levin is 11 years old, and has beaten acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) twice. This is her story.

Sarah and her mother Michelle

The first time I got diagnosed with ALL I was only three, so I don’t remember that much about it. But what my mom and dad have told me is that it was a really sad and scary time for my family. It happened a week before my 3rd birthday. I actually spent my 3rd birthday in at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) on 7 West, which used to be the oncology floor. It was very challenging for my mom and dad to split time between me and my sister. They both wanted to be with me, but they also wanted to be with her and help her through such a hard time.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Fernando Morales

Fernando Morales is a student athlete. Last year he was sidelined from the life he knew after he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. Now done with treatment Fernando is back with his teammates, sporting a positive outlook and a new appreciation for life. This is his story. 

Fernando

As a soccer player and member of the track and field team at my high school, running is a big part of my life. But one morning I started getting shooting pains in my knee. All of a sudden walking and running became very difficult. In the blink of an eye I lost a big part of my identity, which hurt almost as much as my leg. Almost.

I saw a doctor who put me on a physical therapy regimen and took X-rays of my knee. When that didn’t seem to help I underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to see what the problem was and why it wasn’t getting better. The MRI results said it all: a tumor was growing in my right pelvis.

Less than a week later my parents and I were driving to the Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC). There were so many questions floating around my head. Would I need surgery? Would I ever play sports again? Was I going to live? If you compared my sanity to a dam, the pressure in my head was building towards dangerous levels. The walls were starting to crack.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Caitlynne McGaff

Caitlynne McGaff is an active 17-year-old. She owes a lot of her mobility to an innovative surgery she had at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Hospital Cancer Center to treat her osteosarcoma. This is her story.

Caitlynne McGaff

When most people my age talk about a day they’ll never forget, they mention getting their license, or a great sweet sixteen party. For me, it’s a little different. I’ll never forget March 1, 2001, because it was the day I was diagnosed with cancer.

I was just 6 years old at the time, and honestly didn’t fully understand what was happening when the doctor said I had a bone tumor known as osteosarcoma growing just above my knee. But from the shocked looks on my parents’ faces I knew it was big. The rest of the day is a blur. We went from doctor to doctor, office to office, as my new medical team explained my treatment plan to me and my parents. It was a whirlwind, but over time everything became normal, almost comforting.

The Dana-Farber/ Boston Children’s became like a second home to my family and me. Wednesdays were the longest day because that’s when I had chemotherapy. But the staff at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s offers so many entertainment options to its patients you almost forget why you’re there. I may have spent hours tethered to an IV that delivered my medications, but all I remember are the endless arts and crafts projects I did, or the time spent with nurses and doctors I came to see as friends. (Not to mention hours and hours of board games.)

When my chemotherapy session was over I’d head to my room on 7 West, Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s own treatment wing. The similarities between the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the hospital inpatient area are plenty; there’s a surplus of activities in the craft room, tons of movies to watch or games to play and people to hang out with that understand just how much a simple smile can mean to a child in the hospital.

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