Traveling 6,195 Miles From Home to Save Their Son From Cancer

Written by Rachel Wood, Director of Marketing

6,195 miles.  That is the distance from Armenia to Charlotte, N.C.  That is also the distance Areg, his parents, and sister traveled to temporarily relocate from their home country to receive care from Dr. Sholler and her ISF Rare & Solid Tumor Team at Levine Children’s.  6,195 miles away from family, friends, and their lives.

Areg, 6.5 years old, mature beyond his age, loves chess, yoga, and legos.  He loves his friends and wishes more than anything to return to his home country of Armenia and do what all the other kids do… go to school.  But he is currently 6,195 miles away receiving care for relapsed stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.

During a family vacation in August 2017, Areg collapsed due to a sudden fever and lost his ability to walk.  He was hospitalized and diagnosed with neuroblastoma a week later.  His primary tumor was discovered in his abdomen near the adrenal gland.  Areg’s parents did their research and landed on treatment in Germany, 1,186 miles from Armenia.  Areg and his mother left their home to live in Germany for 15 months while he completed treatment while Areg’s father and sister stayed home in Armenia.

After 6 cycles of chemotherapy, tumor resection surgery, radiation, high dose chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, and 5 cycles of immunotherapy… Areg was declared NED (no evidence of disease). 

Areg and his mother returned home to Armenia, but as we all know cancer is never over and medical checkups were required every two months in Germany.  Areg’s first relapse was in September 2019 when his routine MIBG scan showed smalls spots on Areg’s abdomen.  Areg faced another surgery and underwent proton therapy.  This was another 3 months away from home before clean scans.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Areg was not able to undergo his regular scans in April.  When they were finally able to get to Germany for scans in July, the disease showed up in his bone marrow.

They have traveled over 7,381 miles away from home to get the best cancer care possible.  And that isn’t counting all the milage of the countless back and forth trips between Armenia and Germany for checkups.  Areg’s mother says their travels have been adventurous, to put it mildly … missed connecting flights, forced overnight stays in another country, and additional flight legs just to make it home. 

This latest cross Atlantic relocation to Charlotte has brought on many hardships, both emotionally and financially, but Areg’s parents are determined to not let the miles stop them from saving their son’s life.  Areg, whose name means ‘sun’ in Armenian, is their light and driving force to find a cure, and as Areg’s mother says… “We will find it and go for it wherever it is.”

We will continue to keep you updated on Areg’s treatment at Levine Children’s. He is among many who have traveled internationally or across the country to Charlotte in search of answers and more treatment options for rare pediatric cancers.  His story is just one more example of how your financial support is hard at work, and we are incredibly grateful.