30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2020
My family and I went down for a normal visit to see our cousins in Quakertown. Cameron, his sister Caidyn, and little brother Cavin and I walked around the Art Alive festival in May 2018, playing fun games and being our goofy, usual selves. Cam, of course, beat me in all the games that we played. We got home and had dinner, and Cam showed me what seemed to be bug a bite that was annoying him. I remember just saying, “Oh it’s just a bug bite, Cam, you are fine,” and we continued to go outside and play baseball. Little did they know that their world would be turned upside down within the next few weeks.
The following week, the bug bite did not go away. Cam was an energetic, fun-loving kid that wouldn’t let anything stop him from having fun. After wrestling camp one day, Kristina, Cameron’s mom, noticed the bug bite was getting bigger so off to the pediatrician they went. Cameron now was getting very comfortable with the bump and named it “Sparky”. Cameron introduced me to “Sparky” over FaceTime one day and we just joked around about it. A referral to pediatric surgeon, Dr. Nance, at Children Hospital of Philadelphia resulted in the decision to surgically remove “Sparky” from Cameron’s leg on August 14th, as some of “Sparky’s” edges had some change in color. All this was happening so fast, and Cameron’s first day of first grade at St. Isidore’s was only two weeks away.
On Friday, August 17, 2018, Kristina received a phone call from Dr. Nance that would change her life and the life of her family. A shocked and stunned Dr. Nance told Kristina that against all odds, “Sparky,” a tissue-born tumor, was malignant. Her six-year-old son and middle child had Ewing’s Sarcoma. “Sparky” was cancer.
I clearly remember receiving the phone call from my aunt, Cameron’s Grandma, and she told me that Cameron had cancer. Dead silence was over the phone. All I could think about was Cameron, and how he must be feeling. Cameron was supposed to be starting first grade with his friends but instead he would have several surgeries and 14 rounds of chemotherapy over the next nine months. But my Aunt reassured me that Cameron is a strong kid and a fighter, and together we would get through this. It still didn’t seem real though that my buddy, Cam, who should be in first grade living his life playing baseball and wrestling, now had to undergo chemotherapy. Over the next few months, Cameron would be in for a fight for his life.
Kristina and John, Cam’s parents, Caidyn and Cavin, his older sister and younger brother, would become part of an extended family of childhood cancer families that they certainly never signed up for. They learned to reach out, ask questions, and to support one another in the face of the unthinkable. One thing they learned from this network of families with children fighting cancer is that giving up was not an option.
From the very first moment, their family was undeniably #CameronStrong (the hashtag would become a mantra of support as Cameron fought his good fight). They found a family of support in their hometown of Quakertown, in their school of St. Isidore’s, in the athletic organizations in the Quakertown school district, in childhood cancer foundations, particularly the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of Lehigh Valley and Alex’s Lemonade Stand, who would stand by them and fight with them, cry with them, celebrate with them - whatever it took to see Cameron through to the other side of these dark days.
After about his third chemo treatment is when the poison made its presence known. His little leg, with the incision from the surgery, couldn’t heal completely because his blood counts were too low. He was tired, suffered from headaches, lost his taste for his favorite foods. He didn’t smile much anymore. But he didn’t complain. Not once. He didn’t whine. He would tell his mother “I’m strong. I’ve got this.” Still every day, I would receive a FaceTime while I was away at school, and Cameron was still always the one to make me laugh and smile. It killed me to see Cam like this and his family suffering beyond end.
So, one of the best things through all these extreme lows from the chemo was to see these amazing organizations that were there for the Cam’s family. Some of the highlights that PCFLV was able to provide were games at the Phantoms, going to Dorney Park, and Disney on Ice among others. This was amazing for the whole family to be able to get away and have a distraction from what Cameron had to face every day. The best part was seeing the pictures Kristina would send and seeing the smile on Cameron’s face was everything. The outpouring of support was something that would help make the rocky road a little smoother.
However, he was struggling. When he FaceTime’d me, it would only be for a few minutes because he was very sick. But still found a way to make me smile. And as the months went on and December turned into January, then February turned into March, it really seemed like he was going to be ok. He was going to make it, relatively unscathed, through these treatments. April and May, his last two months of treatments, were the worst. He was sick. His little body was tired. He was feverish and he had persistent headaches. He couldn’t eat or really drink too much. His leg would get infected. Treatments were continuously delayed because of low blood counts. More than once, the threat of an overnight ambulance ride to CHOP wasn’t off the table. Then there would be a good week, and another treatment was down. A bad week would force another delay. This went on for the last two months.
But, by the Grace of God, it did come to an end. May 17, 2019 was one of the brightest days for Cam’s family. Surrounded by family and his amazing CHOP nurses, we watched as his chemo dripped to the very end. I still get the chills as I remember seeing Cameron raise his arm in the air with victory, cheering and smiling as his parents hugged and kissed him. It was an incredible moment for everyone. He did it. Our little hero did it!
Initial scans were clean, revealing for now that the treatment worked. First indicators are that the cancer is gone. More scans and check-ups are in his future. He still suffers from some lingering effects which fade more and more with each passing week, but he is back to living the life of an eight year-old boy, to the joy of his parents and his sister and brother. He started third grade this September at St. Isidore’s with Caidyn and his friends. He is dominating the baseball field and working hard to be the best he can be. His smile is back and brighter than ever and our FaceTime calls are my favorite part of my day. There isn’t anything he can’t do, and I am so proud of him for being #CameronStrong.
Written by Cameron’s cousin, Amanda