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MODEL OF THE MONTH: Sean Irizarry

"I'm not awesome, I'm Seansome."

Sean Irizarry, 9

There are very few children that shine in a time of darkness and Sean Irizarry is one of them. You may recognize Sean from Runway to Hope’s Save the Date for this year’s Spring Fashion Soiree on May 20th and that is because of his contagious smile flying through the air as superman! “Sean is very funny, as a heart of gold, creative, smart and loving”, his mother says and we agree with her at Runway to Hope. With all his creativeness, Sean dreams to be a Chef and we can see why. He loves watching the Food Network for inspiration. He also enjoys playing video games, building lego sets, and listening to some sweet tunes from 21 Pilots, Bruno Mars and the Chainsmokers.

This young man’s journey started when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or otherwise known as ALL, back on January 15, 2015. Sean had been dealing with some arm pain for a while prior to his diagnosis. He was initially thought to have rheumatoid arthritis, but a spot on an x-ray led to an MRI and, ultimately, the diagnosis of ALL. Leading up to the diagnosis he had been in pain for quite a while. Even though it was not something they ever expected or wanted to hear, his mother, Natasha, finally felt relief knowing what was going on with him. As many of the families Runway to Hope has been involved with there is one similarity between all of them and that is hearing “Your child has cancer”. This changes families lives forever. Since Sean’s diagnosis he has become more courageous and he knows that if he can get through this, he can overcome anything life throws at him.

Natasha has had many challenges of her own and being a single mom raising such an amazing young man has been a true honor for her, but since his diagnosis she has struggled financially. She says that it has been hard for her to qualify for assistance, as she usually tends to fall outside of the income bracket when it comes to any financial help. She had fallen behind on quite a few bills and Runway to Hope was the only organization that she could receive assistance from. She was extremely grateful for the help in such a hard time in her life. This is why Runway to Hope has a family assistance program for these families, to cut through the red tape and assist families in their time of need.

ALL is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in children and it represents approximately 25% of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years of age. There are approximately 2,900 children diagnosed with ALL each year in the United States, which originates in the T- and B-lymphoblast in the bone marrow. Guidelines for cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with ALL entails a complicated risk assignment, intense therapies, a crucial need for rigorous supportive care, countless transfusions, cautious management of infectious complications, and emotional, financial, and developmental aid.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved in children and adolescents with pediatric cancer. For ALL, the 5-year survival rate has increased over time from 60% to approximately 90% for children younger than 15 years. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up, considering cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. Thankfully Sean is currently on a maintenance plan which means he is being treated with medication for his cancer vs actively in treatment. Usually this follows an initial round of treatment. Maintenance treatment may include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy.

Sean is looking forward to walking again this year for the second time. His mother says it is a welcomed distraction and he loves participating in the event. With Sean being in 4th grade and still battling cancer it can be a struggle, but he is shining like the bright star he is! Runway to Hope can’t wait to see your light fly across the stage this year.

Runway to Hope / 7411 International Drive / Orlando, Florida 32819 / 407.802.1544