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“That he deserved to be known” - Andrés Mother, Karol

As a teenager, a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It is hard enough trying to navigate through high school as a young adolescent without illness, but add cancer to the mix and it brings a whole new set of struggles. So when 15 year old, Andrés was diagnosed, he and his family were thrusted into a whole new world. Andrés was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the beginning of 2017 when he was 14 years of age. The family equated cancer to death prior to his diagnoses and in the beginning they thought they were no options for survival. Thankfully with the amazing Central Florida hospital teams and them taking refuge in God’s wisdom, they were able to find hope throughout this process.

During Andrés’s treatment he remained positive, but as any child would, he would have moments of doubt and a difficult time accepting his diagnosis which came with other side effects. Some physical struggles he faced during treatment included losing his hair, weight loss, fevers, pain in chest, loss of appetite, the way people looked at him or ignored him because of his illness, the treatments that made him very ill, and losing people in his life that he considered friends. A young adult losing friends can be the hardest for someone going through this. Through these struggles, his mother states that he was a tireless warrior that followed all of the instructions with a positive attitude and a big smile! Andrés treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, and two bone marrow transplants. This doesn’t include the countless blood draws, transfusions, and the day to day medications of life of having cancer. During these hard months, Andrés was always very grateful to meet new friends who were struggling with the same things. These new friendships are still an active part of his life and he loves being able to connect to others his age at the hospital. During his hospital stays, Andrés also learned new skills such as barbering. His mother says he is a quick learner and his other passions include playing volleyball, which he hopes to become a university player one day, riding his bike, basketball, and surfing. Andrés hopes to become an engineer, but he is keeping his options open.

Something that many families face that is less discussed than the day to day battle, is the post-traumatic stress for both the child and the family. Andrés has spoken to his family about his fears of his cancer returning and him not knowing or having to go through all of this trauma again. These fears and emotions keep most children from sleeping and affects their daily life. Many families face similar fears and this could continue for years after treatment. When these families battle cancer it changes everything, including physical, mental, spiritual, and financial. It rocks the foundation of everything the family relies on.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or sometimes just lymphoma, is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the body’s immune system. Lymph tissue is found in many places throughout the body, so lymphomas can start almost anywhere. Fewer than 200,000 cases per year are diagnosed for adults and for children. About 5% of all childhood cancers are types of Hodgkin’s Lymphomas. This type of cancer is two to three times more common in boys than in girls. Overall, the risk in children increases with age. It can occur at any age, but is uncommon in children younger than 3.

Our team at Runway to Hope is very thankful to have met this Andrés last year when he came to walk the runway! He is a strong, patient and kind young man. His mother told us that at first Andrés did not want to participate in last year’s runway because he did not want to be hurt if there were people looking down to him because he was sick. She expressed, “The truth is that, on the contrary, they made him feel special, that he was alive, that he deserved to be known, to be photographed, to be the center of attention because it is important for all of his life and that while there is life there is hope. The experience was great, of high expectations and he loved having participated.” We are so excited to have Andrés back for his second year! Don’t miss him walking this year a new man, because he and other kids deserve the world!

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