Cancer Journey Leads to Brotherly Bond

KJ & Dyson

When 10-year-old Dyson was diagnosed with AML Leukemia last June, he never imagined that his cancer journey would bring him a new best friend. On September 10, 2018, the lives of Dyson and KJ Brent, a wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, changed forever. That is the day the two first met and that led to an incredible bond and friendship.

A big supporter of the Isabella Santos Foundation, KJ wanted to be a big brother/mentor to a younger boy. KJ was paired up with Dyson through Erin Santos and Dr. Amii Steele with Levine Children’s Hospital. 

“I think it was a mix of wanting to help guide someone else and also the fact that I never had a brother either,” said KJ who is also passionate about guiding his younger sister. “This just gives me a chance to do it all over again, but with a mature, optimistic mind. And I think that mindset is perfect to mesh with a young kid going through what he [Dyson] and his family have gone through.”

We checked in with Dyson and KJ about their mentorship experience and friendship. Here are some fun highlights of their special bond and times together.

KJ & Dyson, Levine Children’s Hospital

What are some activities you enjoy doing together? 

KJ/Dyson: Hanging out at Sports Connection and Chuck E Cheese, and getting froyo!

What is a funny moment you shared together? 

Dyson: When KJ texts me animated emojis of himself!

KJ: When Dyson gave me the nickname “Cheesy.” The way it came to life was so unexpected, but he laughed so hard at it we just ran with it. Haha!

What’s one of your favorite memories together?

KJ: Every time we play arcade games. It’s always fun just walking around to each game watching the little competitiveness come out when he wants more tickets for more prizes. Haha!

Dyson: When we first meet at the hospital.

How has meeting and becoming friends benefited you both? 

Dyson: KJ makes me feel better when I’m sad and he checks in on me.

KJ: The world. The fact that I can become friends with someone in Dyson’s situation and be a big brother figure for him, talk about sports, anything he wants to is great. It’s been awesome to get closer with him and hoping we can eventually gain trust with each other to talk about life, experience life together and continue being close “brothers”!

What’s something fun that KJ and you have planned for a future visit?

Dyson:  That he goes to the SuperBowl and I get to go with him!!!

Update about Dyson: Dyson completed his last round of chemotherapy on October 4, 2018, and returned to school in January. He is now cancer-free and continues to spend time with KJ when he’s in town.