Stories about: National Childhood Cancer Awarness Month

Pushing a blood disorder to the sidelines


Before I was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in August of 2007, I was an all-star basketball player. At the age of 11 I led my AAU basketball team to a third place finish in the Massachusetts State Tournament. I hit three buzzer beaters during the tournament, including the all-important shot to capture third place.

As an athlete who played a lot of high-contact sports like basketball and football I was no stranger to a couple of bruises every now and again, but in the weeks leading up to my diagnosis I noticed that I had been bruising very easily and abnormally compared to my teammates. I had very dark bruises on my legs and arms, and batches of little red dots all over my skin. Others told me that I looked pale. I was never at a loss for breath or overly tired—I felt fit enough to make every game and practice—but the constant bruising was the big indicator that something was wrong.

My parents made an appointment with my doctor who recommended a bunch of special tests, including some for cancer. When one of the tests showed I had aplastic anemia, I was crushed. The doctors told me I had very low blood counts, and that with low reds, whites, and platelets, I could not return to basketball or even go to school—suddenly it seemed as though everything had been taken away from me.

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Many faces of childhood cancer

In honor of National Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, we spent September sharing the stories of four brave children treated at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC). Each child’s story is different, and all four patients have very unique takes on how being a young cancer survivor has shaped his or her outlook on life.

  • Caitlynne opted for an innovative treatment that turned her ankle into a replacement knee after osteosarcoma took part of her leg. She says have the choice, even though she was very young at the time, has made her a stronger person.
  • Fernando was a star soccer player, but Ewing sarcoma sent him to the sidelines while he received treatment. It was a hard transition, but eventually Fernando says his time away from the field gave him a new appreciation for what really matters in life.
  • Sarah has faced leukemia down not once, but twice, and now knows she has the strength to do whatever she puts her mind to.
  • Steven, overcame bone cancer to become his high school’s valedictorian. He’s currently studying to become a cancer researcher, with the hopes of eventually helping children.
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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.


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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