David Rosales is a huge Chicago Bears fan, and for good reason.
"A famous football player for them named Brian Urlacher came to see me in the hospital," the 13-year-old Lovington boy said recently from his room at UNM Children’s Hospital. "I was really excited."
Urlacher, a former Lobo star who was also raised in Lovington, raised David’s spirits last May, as he was undergoing treatment for osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
"I have it in my femur, on the side of it," David said. "(Surgeons) already took it out."
Now David makes regular trips from southern New Mexico to UNM Children’s Hospital, where he receives chemotherapy treatments and passes the time reading, playing video games or hanging out in the hospital’s Child Life Center.
"The people here in the hospital treat you like family, it’s just really comfortable here," he said. "They do the best things they can do and they try to get you out of the hospital faster, because they know you don’t like it as much in here."
Through it all, David stays upbeat and keeps smiling.
"Don’t give up on yourself, and stay strong," David said when asked to offer advice to other children who are starting their fight with cancer. "I like to keep smiling a lot and that keeps the people around me smiling. And that keeps me smiling."
And although he’s sidelined from most of the sports he likes to play, David still dreams big about his future.
"I wanted to play sports, but I can’t do that anymore," he said. "So I want to become a doctor. I want to go to college and then to medical school."
Music, reading and writing, sports, you name it. Morgan Hurley likes to do it.
"I pretty much like everything. I do everything," she said. "I play sports. I’m starting to get back into sports now, playing volleyball."
But the adversity she faces on the court is nothing compared to the fight she’s been waging against cancer. The 17-year-old Tohajiilee girl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years ago, and, after treatment, was in remission for eight months before the disease returned. Earlier this year, Morgan underwent a stem cell transplant, and she is once again in remission. She is hopeful about her recovery, and working hard to get her life back on track.
"It’s been extremely hard. I missed two years out of high school, and it’s been difficult on my family and friends," she said, adding that her spirituality, positive thinking and the support of loved ones have sustained her.
Morgan says she has come a long way, emotionally and physically, since learning of her disease two years ago.
"I was kind of numb to be honest, because I couldn’t believe it was happening to me, and I was scared, because I didn’t know what was going on, and what everything was going to be like, and losing my hair. It was devastating," she recalled recently during an interview at UNM Children’s Hospital. "I think I cried for maybe a week straight."
But she soon resolved to take on the disease and is catching up on her class work during summer school and night classes. Morgan expects to graduate next year.
"Right now, I’m mostly concentrating on graduating and then later on going to college and maybe the military," she said. She hopes to one day work as a nurse, perhaps at UNM, "to help kids who are going through the exact same thing that I went through."
In the meantime, Morgan tells other young people embarking on the journey she began two years ago to "stay strong and positive, and to just keep your head up."
"This is really hard," she said. "One of the hardest things you could ever do."
Ask 12-year-old Jaiden Patel about his future career plans, and he doesn’t hesitate to answer.
"I want to be a doctor, like Dr. Heideman," he said recently. "He inspired me to be a doctor, to help other kids the same way (I am helped) right now."
Dr. Richard Heideman, a pediatric oncologist at UNM Children’s Hospital, is helping Jaiden battle brain cancer, a disease the gracious and optimistic Santa Fe County boy has been fighting nearly his entire life. Diagnosed at age two, Jaiden underwent chemotherapy and then radiation treatments.
"And then the radiation worked, and it was stable for about eight years, and then last January, there was a relapse," he said. "We did a scan again and there was another (tumor) growing on top of the other one."
Jaiden regularly travels from his home in Santa Fe County to UNM Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy treatments, which he says appear to be working.
"We did another scan, and (the tumor) shrunk," he said. "So hopefully after this one dies, nothing will come back."
Brain tumors account for more than 20 percent of all cancers diagnosed in children under the age of 15, according to the American Cancer Society. About 4,000 central nervous system tumors are diagnosed each year in children.
For Jaiden, the diagnosis hasn’t dampened his zest for life or the pursuit of his dreams. He loves spending time on the basketball court, despite being blind in one eye, and dreams of the day he can help children who face the same journey he now braves.
"You have your whole life to live, and to just keep moving forward."
If Kendra Edwards isn’t playing hoops or watching her beloved Los Angeles Lakers on television, you might find her with her nose buried in a good novel.
"I like John Grisham, mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction," she said during a recent visit to UNM Children’s Hospital. "Anything you give me, I’ll read."
But it is music that really moves this vivacious Los Lunas 10-year-old, who dreams of a singing career.
Nowhere is Kendra’s passion for life more evident than in the courageous battle that now consumes much of her time. Kendra was diagnosed in March with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that most often occurs in children and young adults. According to the American Cancer Society, 800 new cases of osteosarcoma are diagnosed in the United States every year. About 400 of those cases are in children and teenagers, often during rapid growth spurts, though the cause isn’t known.
Kendra called her diagnosis earlier this year "an eye-opening experience."
"I was scared, but then kind of ready to take it on," she said. "Stuff happens for a reason, and God never gives you what you can’t handle, and so it’s pretty much, just stay calm and roll with the punches."
Kendra underwent surgery to remove the tumor from her leg, and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments at UNM Children’s Hospital. The University of New Mexico’s pediatric oncology program is the state’s only resource for childhood cancer diagnosis and treatment.
"I’m pretty used to the routine that we usually do," Kendra said of her ongoing treatment. "It’s not that scary anymore. The first couple of times (at the hospital) it was scary because you didn’t really know anybody, but now I’ve made some new friends and made some new nurse friends. It’s nice."
Kendra hopes to be finished with her chemotherapy treatments by the end of November. Meanwhile, she offers this advice to other children who might someday find themselves facing a similar battle.
"The pain (from treatments) goes away...If you get depressed, at some point, you just remember, stuff could be a lot worse than what you’re going through right now, and you just need to breath and spend the best times with your family, and everything will be just fine."
October 15, 2011
Join us as we celebrate and honor children from the Albuquerque area who have been affected by children’s cancer. This very special day will include prizes, music, food, and fun activities for the entire family! Please encourage your friends and family to join us as we raise funds to reach the day when every child with cancer is guaranteed a cure!