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Through My Eyes: What It’s Like to Help Kids Understand & Cope With Their Cancer Diagnosis

Through My Eyes is a series in which those affected by childhood cancer share a behind-the-scenes look into what it’s like to be in their shoes.  Read every perspective. Become aware and donate to help create solutions for kids fighting rare pediatric cancer. 

  • Perspective: Pediatric Oncology Child Life Specialist
  • Name: Paige Hinkle
  • Hospital: Levine Children’s Hospital, Outpatient Clinic

Paige is a Certified Child Life Specialist in Levine Children’s pediatric oncology outpatient clinic. She helps patients, siblings and their families understand and cope with their cancer diagnosis. Paige was featured on our social channels (Instagram & Facebook) on 9/19/19 to share why she continues to work with pediatric oncology patients and a few of the difficult conversations and intimate moments needed when childhood cancer won’t back down. This is childhood cancer.

I feel so lucky that I get to be a Child Life Specialist to our kids fighting cancer at Levine Children’s! I get to see these kids exhibit what it is like to truly be courageous. Courageous doesn’t always mean being brave and it doesn’t mean it gets easier-it means finding strength in the midst of pain, grief, and fear. And these kids show it every day!

These past few weeks have actually felt like cancer is literally smacking us in the face.  It has been a brutal time for our team as we witness cancer striking time and time again. During these emotional times, I remind myself to focus on my role with patients. Focus on what I can do right now to comfort them and what I can plan on doing to bring calm to the storm cancer causes.

As a Certified Child Life Specialist, my role changes a little bit from providing procedural support and educating our patients about their diagnosis in a way that they understand. First and foremost, these kids are kids-and I love getting on their level and meeting them where they are. Sometimes that looks like making transformers out of playdoh or playing countless rounds of UNO. 

And sometimes my job is that I get to use real medical materials and human body books to teach these kids about their cancer and what their treatment will look and feel like. Other times I get to talk with our kids about their hopes, dreams, and goals and work my hardest to make those things happen.”

I love that I get to work with these kids and their families for months and even years! It brings me so much joy to invest in these kids long-term. My favorite memory is of a school-age patient that I spent a lot of time with. He would always ask for me to come see him, but sometimes he would hear my voice in infusion and just yell down the hall “Paige! Come see me! I’m in here!” Sometimes he would yell that as the nurse tech was trying to get his body temp through his mouth. I always look back on that memory and laugh. He was such a special buddy to me. I treasure these relationships.

I love seeing them grow throughout the years I get to spend with them.  I get to see how far they have come and the warriors they’ve turned into-it’s so rewarding to see the progress they make not only physically but emotionally. I get to work with them during their first port access, I teach them with medical supplies what the procedure will feel like and I coach them through that procedure. And over time, our kids really take that control back that cancer has taken away. They master things that are really hard! I’m just so proud of them.  They are all gifts and they are changing the world.

Intimate Conversations

“Every single living being has a beginning, a time to be alive, and then an ending , or death…”  -When Dinosaurs Die

“Sometimes we must tell a patient that we don’t have a way to make their cancer go away.  That their cancer is making it hard for their -heart, lungs, liver, brain-to do their jobs and keep their body working how it should.  We tell them we have tried all the options, and that because our bodies can’t live with cancer, their body is going to die. During those conversations, we always, always reserve space that something miraculous will happen.  But we have to prepare for what is most likely going to happen. We want to help arm our patients and families with new ways to fight their cancer.    

As a care team, we want to help set them up to have the best quality of life possible. That means our team makes plans to help our patients to have less pain, more comfort, less time in the clinic and hospital, and more space to make this time look like what they want it to.  We surround them with the support to make difficult decisions and to process unimaginable emotions. Cancer wants to control, to overwhelm, to squash hope, and to take away life. These new weapons help to give control back to our patients, to give them new kinds of hope, and to pour more life into the time that is now.

Beauty That Cannot Be Overshadowed By Cancer

When a child has advanced cancer they become more motivated to influence others’ lives and prepare for their own deaths.  So, I schedule special appointments with our patients to spend this time talking about what legacy they want to leave behind and together we create new pieces of legacy to give to their loved ones. Our patients need and want to know that they will be remembered, and they won’t be forgotten. These interventions have been studied and found to increase kids’ sense of purpose, meaning, and will to live increased, which causes suffering and depressive symptoms to decline. Legacy projects also bring our families incomparable joy as they remember their child.  What better way to fight cancer then to do these things?

So what does it actually look like when our families use these new tools to fight their cancer? They go to the beach one more time, fly across the country for a rap concert, they get a tattoo.  I help them make art with their handprints, use their beads of courage to share their story, and make priceless gifts for their family. Their loved ones provide their child space to just be a kid-to play, laugh, and make new memories as a family. Our families talk with their children about what heaven looks like, they ask us their brave yet scary questions to prepare, and a million other acts of love – that’s why they are our heroes. This is how we help turn something that is so traumatic, so dark, so horrible-into something that is beautiful, that shines bright, and cannot be overshadowed by cancer

More Hope Is Near

This can look like so many things. Sometimes, families do something really brave-they come back to the clinic where their child was treated. We get to love on them more intimately, share special memories together, and hold space to breathe new hope into what happens next. Our families rise up, weapons re-arranged and they do exactly what cancer tries to take away. 

They stand with their new army, sometimes hundreds or thousands of people who support their mission, and they help us to make this better for our kids. While processing their OWN loss and grief, they take care of the next precious little bodies that cancer dares to infiltrate. Our families work endless hours to raise more money-and more money means change and hope and life and more answers to fight this. They raise awareness by telling their child’s story and they share the light that their child has brought to this world. It doesn’t matter if these stories reach 1 or 1,000 people. 

Our families also help us to care for our families on a deeper level. Through partnerships… they help us buy a wheelchair that makes a patients’ day a million times easier, they give us Starbucks gift cards to give parents a break while their child is inpatient, they bring us LEGO’s and blankets and so much more to bring smiles to their faces. Every bit counts and impacts our families. 

Through these families, I get more and more motivated to keep what I’m doing, because it matters. These kids keep me going, keep us going, and we aren’t stopping.  I love to imagine that cancer is shaking in its’ boots. Because our families aren’t backing down-they’re getting stronger and more hope is near.

Paige says that families go through all the stages of grief, but for every child lost, they have to process two losses.  The life of the child that should have continued, and the actual loss of their child. Every child deserves to just be a “normal kid”, fulfill their dreams, go to college, get married.  Help us make that a reality. This is childhood caner. Are you aware?

DONATE

*** THROUGH MY EYES: THIS IS CHILDHOOD CANCER SERIES

9/2:  We Have Stopped Making You Aware

9/3:  Through My Eyes: This is Childhood Cancer 

9/3:  Through My Eyes: What Cancer Leaves Behind

9/4:  Through My Eyes: Day In the Life Of Kellie Andrew, Warrior Mom Fighting to Save Her Child From Neuroblastoma

9/5:  Through My Eyes: Behind the Scenes with Aaron Plummer, Dad to RhabdomyosarcomaWarrior

9/6:  Through My Eyes: What My Child About Cancer, What Really Scares This Cancer Mom

9/8:  Through My Eyes: Week 1 Results

9/9:  Through My Eyes: Behind the Mind of a Teenager Fighting Cancer & Social Anxiety

9/11:  Through My Eyes: What It’s Like to be a Young Adult Living With Cancer

9/13: Through My Eyes: What It’s Like to be a Young Adult Supporting a Loved One With Cancer

9/15: Through My Eyes: Week 2 Results

9/17: Through My Eyes: Behind the Scenes With Charlotte Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. Oesterheld

Through My Eyes: Behind the Scenes With Charlotte Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. Oesterheld

Through My Eyes is a series in which those affected by childhood cancer share a behind-the-scenes look into what it’s like to be in their shoes.  Read every perspective. Become aware and donate to help create solutions for kids fighting rare pediatric cancer. 

  • Perspective: Pediatric Oncologist
  • Name: Dr. Javier Oesterheld
  • Hospital: Levine Children’s Hospital

Invested day in and night out in kids fighting cancer and their families, Levine Children’s Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. Oesterheld, took over on our social channels (Instagram & Facebook) on 9/17/19 to give behind the scenes thoughts and views into being a pediatric oncologist. He is passionate and he is real. Dr. O is dedicated to bring positive change to kids fighting cancer. 

Meet Dr. O

I’m Dr. Javier Oesterheld, Dr. O for short. I have both the best and worst job in the world. I’m the medical director for our pediatric hematology/oncology/BMT program at Levine Children’s. It is so hard at times to be a pediatric oncologist and be a part of the worst days of a family’s life. Telling a parent that their child has cancer never gets easy. In some ways though, I’m happy to be the one sharing the news because I want the family to know how much we truly care. It’s an honor to be part of their journey throughout the good times and the bad. It’s a privilege to be trusted to provide this care. And it truly is the best job in the world when we get to see a patient ring the bell to celebrate their end of treatment.

It’s hard to describe the emotions I feel when patients come back for appointments looking healthy and strong. They’ve grown hair, they’ve grown taller, they are much more energetic…they look like different kids. But their fighting spirit, personality and strength is still the same as when they were sick in a hospital bed. Kids are resilient, man, and it’s pretty awesome. 

Because we walk alongside patients and families during some of the most vulnerable times of their lives, we grow very close. This may sound cliche, but it’s true: they become family. I have a beautiful wife and two amazing sons of my own…and a whole office full of patients who are also part of my family. This isn’t just a job. I can’t simply leave work at work when it’s time to go home. And nor do I want to, as I believe true empathy is a huge attribute in being a successful pediatric oncologist. I truly care about my patients, and I feel the wins and losses alongside their families. On the especially bad days, my world stops. When I get home, the only thing that helps me cope is hugging my own boys. 

I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone said “oh wow, that must be so sad” when I share my profession. So what did make me decide to pursue medicine, specifically pediatric oncology? Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician – no question there. I thought for a while that I wanted to be a pediatric neurologist. And then when I met this one kid in my residency – it just clicked for me. He was a teenager who was scheduled for a leg amputation the next day. I sat with him all night just talking and listening, and when I went home, I told my wife that I thought pediatric oncology was my calling. When I did my hem/onc rotation the following month, my thoughts were confirmed and I never looked back. Here we are, 18 years later. If you see a child go through cancer, you’ll be moved forever, and that’s what keeps me going day in and day out.

Painful Procedures

One of the worst parts of my job is putting a patient through painful procedures, especially younger patients that may not understand why. Ultimately, everything we are doing is to try to save their life – and I remind myself of that on a regular basis. I remind the parents of that too, as it is so hard to watch your child experience pain throughout treatment. A big focus of pediatric oncology is making everything as painless as possible, and I am proud that Levine Children’s puts such an emphasis on this. For example, we have numbing cream and cold sprays that put on in advance of a port access to make it a little better the child. We have a vein finder (pictured) that allows us to see the veins under the skin so we’ll get a vein on the very first try, which prevents extra pokes. We love that we have Reiki therapists who help with both psychological and physical pain. 

Vein Finder

But perhaps the best “tool” we have are child life specialists who are specially trained to help with the psychosocial aspects of a diagnosis like cancer. Paige is our child life specialist in our outpatient office, and Sharon and Andrea are our child life specialists on the oncology floor in the hospital. They will come to any procedure big or small and provide age-appropriate education so kids understand what is happening. The unknown is much scarier!. Child life specialists even help the kids perform the same procedure on a stuffed animal and make a plan with the patient to give the patients as much control as possible. They also provide distraction, so the child can focus on an ipad game or bubbles or whatever they like, instead of focusing on their procedure on the other side of the table. This helps immensely.

No matter what, our patients are always brave. And we always reward bravery. In working with child life, we’ve learned that the most effective way to do this is simply by positive praise! Sometimes we use tangible things like prizes, but we really want to empower these kids, and they respond really well to this. The whole team gets involved – from myself and other providers, to the nurses to the front desk…everyone cheers for our patients!

BMT With a Little Bit of Freedom

LCH BMT Unit

Just last week, we officially opened our expanded BMT and cellular therapies unit. It is a beautiful new space, right on the 11th floor under the watchful eye of our blood and marrow transplant team. We now have 8 specialized rooms (previously 4), and my favorite part of the new space is that our patients no longer have to stay IN their room for their entire admission. The entire unit, including all patient rooms, hallways and the play area are all HEPA-filtered, which clears out germs in the air.  We’re the only children’s hospital in Charlotte that can perform transplants, plus, we’re also one of the only spaces in the entire country that has a safe play space for kids. It may seem small, but it makes a huge difference.

When a child has a BMT or other transplant of some kind, we first give them an extremely high dose of chemotherapy that wipes out their immune system. That means the tiniest little germ can make these little patients extremely sick. To keep them healthy, they have to stay in the hospital until their immune system “grows” back, which can be anywhere from 2-6 weeks after transplant. Previously, they had to stay in their hospital room the whole time. Now, they can wander the halls and go into the playroom, full of toys, technology and more. This is just one way that we try to treat the child as a whole…not just their medical condition. Being able to play and interact with others is huge for a patient (and their family’s) psychological and emotional state. I believe being in a better mental state helps kids heal faster.

Long-Lasting Impact

I’m incredibly grateful to the Isabella Santos Foundation for bringing this state-of-the-art MIBG therapy suite to Levine Children’s. We have a patient in there today so I can’t show it to you “live,” so these pictures are from our grand opening event about 10 months ago. MIBG is a treatment for neuroblastoma and other solid tumors; it’s a painless treatment that involves a very high level of radiation that can only take place in a lead-lined hospital room with specialized equipment. As a result of the Isabella Santos Foundation’s generosity and fundraising, we’re one of just 20 centers in the country who can provide this treatment – really putting us on the map. This allows us to take a giant leap in how we care for children with cancer.

ISF MIBG Room

This therapy suite is extra special for me because I had the privilege of being one of Isabella’s doctors during her cancer journey. When it was time for MIBG, her family was uprooted and separated, as she had to go to another state for this treatment. Her legacy has made it so no other child will need to leave Charlotte for this type of care. What a true gift and longlasting impact.

Leading-Edge Treatments

We’re fortunate at Levine Children’s to be able to provide the most leading-edge treatments, including Phase I clinical trials. Before I became the medical director of the program, I led our developmental therapeutics (Phase I) program, so it is near and dear to my heart. We currently have 70-80 open clinical trials (Phase I-III), and our program is currently the primary investigators on three trials. Clinical trials are designed for all aspects of pediatric cancer: to improve survival rates, side effects, find the right combination of treatments, with the ultimate goal of less cancer and more time. We want to put every patient on a clinical trial because it’s in their best interest, and it’s also in the best interest of the greater good. Every child with cancer is a rare diagnosis, and we want to learn everything we can about the patient to help them and to help all of the kids that will come after them. I also want to be clear – being on a clinical trial does not mean your child is a “guinea pig.” Every single drug is tested on adult patients before pediatric patients, so we have a solid idea of its effectiveness before we ever provide it to a single child. Clinical trials all build upon each other, and cures are built on clinical trials. Every medicine that you’ve ever taken started as a clinical trial. A cool example in the pediatric cancer world is the CAR-T treatment for pediatric leukemia. It started 10-15 years ago as a clinical trial, and now it’s FDA approved…and we’re thrilled to say that it’s coming to Levine Children’s next month. It’s also important to note that we wouldn’t have clinical trials without philanthropic organizations like the Isabella Santos Foundation…so here’s a not-so-subtle plug to donate. Donations fund cures. 

No Child Should Have to Experience This

I’ll start here: childhood cancer is an awful disease and something no child should have to experience. We won’t stop until there is a 100% cure rate. But there has been substantial positive progress made over the years. In 1960, the survival rate for pediatric leukemia was 5-10 percent. Today, it is 80-90 percent. We’ve increased survival rates for neuroblastoma by 15-20%. Overall, 4 out of 5 patients who have childhood cancer will survive. That’s huge progress…although it’s not enough until we’re in a world with “no. more. cancer,” to quote Isabella.  

We’ve also made huge advancements to the child’s treatment experience during this time. Kids are first and foremost, kids. We remember that throughout their treatment. We know more about emotional wellbeing and how stress and anxiety can have physical effects on anyone, but especially a child. That’s why it’s not just about the oncologist – it’s about the whole team, including child life specialists, social workers, navigators, psychologists and more. 

But none of this would be possible without organizations like the Isabella Santos Foundation who provide philanthropic support to make these things possible. From clinical trials to medical equipment to interactive games to stickers and so much more: much of it is funded by donations and the kindness of people who want to help. Thank you for helping. 

Day in and night out… being a pediatric oncologist is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Dr. Oesterheld is changing things for kids fighting cancer. He is doing everything he can to change pediatric treatment and save our children’s lives. But he can’t make his visions a reality without funding. He can’t build programs. He can’t create new clinical trials. Please help fuel his work by donating to thank him.

DONATE

All photos/videos courtesy of Levine Children’s. 

WHAT YOUR DONATION COULD FUND:

-$100 donation could purchase pipettes and petri dishes for the new Pediatric Cancer Translational Research Lab at Levine Children’s.  This lab is going to be a game changer for pediatric cancer research right here in Charlotte. Research effects change. But we need the equipment to make it happen.

-$250 donation could help fund a novel clinical trial at the ISF Rare & Solid Tumor Program at Levine Children’s. Clinical trials are designed for all aspects of pediatric cancer: to improve survival rates, side effects, find the right combination of treatments, with the ultimate goal of less cancer and more time.

-$500 donation could help fund Next Gen Sequencing of rare tumors (rare tumor research) at the ISF Rare & Solid Tumor Program at Levine Children’s. This rare tumor research helps determine what’s happening inside a cancer tumor and how to attack it.

*** THROUGH MY EYES: THIS IS CHILDHOOD CANCER SERIES

9/2:  We Have Stopped Making You Aware

9/3:  Through My Eyes: This is Childhood Cancer 

9/3:  Through My Eyes: What Cancer Leaves Behind

9/4:  Through My Eyes: Day In the Life Of Kellie Andrew, Warrior Mom Fighting to Save Her Child From Neuroblastoma

9/5:  Through My Eyes: Behind the Scenes with Aaron Plummer, Dad to RhabdomyosarcomaWarrior

9/6:  Through My Eyes: What My Child About Cancer, What Really Scares This Cancer Mom

9/8:  Through My Eyes: Week 1 Results

9/9:  Through My Eyes: Behind the Mind of a Teenager Fighting Cancer & Social Anxiety

9/11:  Through My Eyes: What It’s Like to be a Young Adult Living With Cancer

9/13: Through My Eyes: What It’s Like to be a Young Adult Supporting a Loved One With Cancer

9/15: Through My Eyes: Week 2 Results

Surprise, it’s Christmas in July!

Ho ho ho! Surprise… it’s Christmas in July! Our ISF elves have been busy picking out the best toys for some extra special boys and girls. Today was the big day! Santa ditched his summer surfboard and broke out his sleigh to travel all the way to Levine Children’s Hospital with a special stop at the oncology floor and clinic. Thank you to all of Santa’s ISF elves and supporters who make magical days like today possible.

Huge thanks to Toys and Co. for helping our elves with the toys!

Fighting Pediatric Cancer: Madison’s Story

Madison & her Care Team

After almost a year ago of being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer, Madison received the news she has been fighting so hard to hear at her 3 months scan yesterday from Dr. Oesterheld. SHE BEAT CANCER. Madison will continue to have maintenance scans and therapy on her leg, but was able to ‘Ring the Bell’ at Levine Children’s Hospital signifying the end of her treatment and beginning of living life cancer-free!

After several rounds of chemotherapy in 2018 to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates. If you are familiar with Madison’s story (posted below), you will remember her parents promised her a puppy to help motivate her to learn to walk again.  And just a few weeks ago Oakley, a black Goldendoodle, came home with her!

Madison & Meredith, Program Director at Levine’s Seacrest Studios

Madison was full of giggles and smiles all afternoon. Here she is pictured with some of her Levine Care Team who she adores! And with Meredith, Levine’s Seacrest Studios Coordinator, who naturally showed up in a unicorn onesie to celebrate.  We don’t want to miss giving Dr. Oesterheld credit for wearing pink and unicorn socks for the occasion!  Levine’s Doctors, Nurses, Child Life Specialists, Staff… and yes dancing Seacrest Studios Unicorns are simply the best. The. Very. Best.

Madison has so much to look forward to as her family just learned she gets her Make-A-Wish trip to L.A. to visit Duff Goldman of Kids Baking Championship.  How cool would it be to say… ‘I hung out with Duff’.  ‘I baked a cake with Duff’. ‘Yup, Duff and I are BFFs.’  We are beyond excited for this little baker and can’t wait to see more from their trip.

Congratulations Madison, we are so proud of all your hard work and determination! And thank you to everyone at Levine’s for everything you do for Madison and other kids fighting cancer!  

Congratulations Madison, we are so proud of all your hard work and determination! And thank you to everyone at Levine’s for everything you do for kids fighting cancer!  

MADISON’S STORY (Recorded September 2018)

BIG HEROES COME IN SMALL PACKAGES  (Blog post published October 2018)

Madison and mom Laura

Madison was diagnosed in April of 2018 with osteosarcoma at age five. After several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates. She continues to receive chemotherapy and recover from her surgery. Once Madison gets the green light from her doctors to be more mobile, she is determined to learn to walk again so she can earn a super cute bribe from her parents – a Golden Retriever puppy. 

A Community of Support

Madison and her family live two hours from Charlotte in Scotland County. She and her mom make the drive each week to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital where Madison receives in-patient treatment Thursday-Saturday. They then return home for four days to be with their family – Madison’s dad, Michael, and big sister, Riley – and where Laura teaches three days a week. 

“Madison’s diagnosis has changed us all,” says Laura. “Michael and I have to raise each of our daughters as single parents during the days when we are in Charlotte for treatment. The hardest part is not being together under the same roof. We are very grateful for the great friends we have made through this journey. You realize you can’t do this alone so you learn to rely on support from others.”

Team Madison

For the remainder of the year, Madison will be homebound where she loves to cook, bake, do crafts and make “how-to” videos on her mom’s phone. When she finishes chemo in December, she’ll resume her favorite activities including dance classes, swimming and learning how to ride her bike.

Chef Madison

In January, she will start kindergarten at the school where Laura teaches and where they already have a tremendous community of support. Faculty and students have created “Team Madison” in honor of Madison for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Scotland County. Laura and Madison stay busy supporting the team. It all started with their Levine Children’s Hospital life coach bringing them some beads to make necklaces and bracelets. From there, Laura and Madison started making “Madison’s Hope Rope” key chains that they give to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital and sell to raise funds for their Relay For Life team and other cancer organizations. 

“Madison is our hero and is such an inspiration,” says Laura. “She’s such a good kid and is all about wanting to help other people. Even though she’s five, she’s changing people’s lives.”

Madison and sister Riley

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.