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Hall of Heroes

Take a virtual tour of the 22 portraits of courageous children that line the halls leading into St. Luke’s children’s cancer ward.

A Virtual Tour of the Hall of Heroes

Adam was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in October of 2010, when he was 8 ½ years old. Our whole family was suddenly on a journey for which we felt unprepared. Immediately, we trusted the wonderful pediatric oncologists at St. Luke’s and all of the caring staff in the hospital and at MSTI to guide us and help us. Due to the advances in pediatric cancer treatments, we felt very hopeful about a full recovery for Adam. During the initial 21-day stay in the hospital, we focused on loving our son, keeping our family strong, and taking it one day at a time. Each step of the way, we found help, resources and support. People who met Adam during maintenance phase would not have known about his oncology diagnosis, because life was so normal for him. Adam finished his treatments in December of 2013 and is now as healthy as can be. It seems that having had cancer served to bring out the best in our son, and even opened his heart more than would have otherwise happened.

Some practical advice: 1) Trust the process; 2) Listen to your own parental instincts; 3) Start a notebook for lab results, notes, and questions; 4) Allow other people to help you and to pray for you; 5) Look for the blessings each day. 6) Most importantly – keep your focus on loving your child.

Hall of Heroes: Adam Pettyjohn

Adam Pettyjohn

Look for the blessings each day, & most importantly – keep your focus on loving your child.”

The Hall of Heroes is what Baldapalooza is all about. When Kean Barker was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia he spent months “living” at St. Luke’s downtown. One of the few things that would comfort Kean or help him escape his pain was to take endless wagon rides through the halls surrounding his room. Kean’s family quickly memorized every piece of artwork (there were three) and every sign (family kitchen, supply closet etc.). An idea was born to create a Hall of Heroes; portraits highlighting the courageous children who have bravely fought for their lives. 

Currently, 22 portraits line the halls leading into the St. Luke’s Children’s cancer ward on the 4th floor. These portraits tell their stories, give words of encouragement, and let others know they are not alone in this battle.

Fabiana Beatriz provided the photography and Framed Legacy provided the printing and framing. St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital helped with the wall resurfacing and hanging of the portraits. Now Kean and all the other children have something to look at; something pretty special. 

Hall of Heroes

Adam Pettyjohn

“Take each day as it comes, knowing that each day that life brings, you are closer to healing.”

Beckham MacGillivray

Beckham MacGillivray 

Hall of Heroes: Beckham MacGillivray

Beckham was a happy, healthy boy when at 6 years old he started having fevers and not feeling good. After a solid week in the hospital and having multiple tests, he was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH.

We were so fortunate to have the amazing staff at St. Luke’s diagnose him so quickly, as this is a rare disease and fatal is not treated usually within 30 days of symptoms. After 12 weeks of chemo we had a relapse and a bone marrow transplant was needed to save his life. We received two days notice and were on a plane to Cincinnati where we lived for 7 straight months to get this life saving transplant to treat his disease.

Today, 2 years later, I’m happy to say he is a thriving, active boy again. At the onset of the diagnosis we kept thinking, “What are we going do to?” but just remember to take each day as it comes, knowing that each day that life brings, you are closer to healing. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and here we are 24 months later, celebrating his “two year old” bone marrow transplant date.

We are so grateful to share our story and have added another member to our family: Matt, who is now 21, and Beckham’s bone marrow donor. Remember, that out of all things that can happen, good comes from it and life is a journey, not a destination.

Hearing that your child has cancer can be the worst news that any parent will ever hear. Cancer is not the end, the journey is just getting started. The good news is that you are in the hands of some of the most talented, helpful, caring, and un-hospital like people that we have ever met. Your child will be treated like a human, not just a patient. Something that is so very important in the weeks, months, and years to come is to fight for your child’s humanity. Cancer can easily steal so much from a child, but it doesn’t have to take away their identity. Cancer doesn’t define who a person is, who a person is defines how the cancer is defeated. Having a solid support systems is extremely helpful and we could not have made it this far without the support of family, friends, and always choosing to have joy and hope in the midst of much pain and sorrow.

Benaiah never lost hope once during the last 3 years. He was diagnosed at age 4 on March 6, 2012, and has fought like a warrior ever since. His name means “Jehovah has built,” and we never would have imagined how God can take something terrible like Leukemia and turn it into something beautiful that has reached around the world and touched more people than we can count. Don’t ever lose hope, with Him, all things are possible. Defeat is not an option.

Benaiah Rosser

Hall of Heroes: Benaiah Rosser

Benaiah Rosser

“Something that is so very important in the weeks, months, and years to come is to fight for your child’s humanity.”

Clay Buie

“Clay has triumphed over this unforeseen adversity like a champion…”

Hall of Heroes: Clay Buie

Clay Buie

At the end of July in 2013, Clay woke up very early in the morning to get a drink of water. He called out for help, saying he couldn’t see. His mom arrived in time to catch him as he passed out. He came to quickly and we realized he had a fever. Later that day we took him to the doctor who ran several tests including a blood test to rule out the “highly unlikely possibility” of leukemia.

The next day in a follow up appointment, we were flabbergasted to find out the blood tests came back abnormally and it looked like it could indeed be leukemia. We were told to head directly to St. Luke’s MSTI pediatrics, where we would surely be for an undetermined amount of time. After a few days, the doctors felt certain we were battling T-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. They began chemotherapy and he did the majority of his 7th grade school year at home via FaceTime technology.

Clay has triumphed over this unforeseen adversity like a champion, all the while maintaining his joy, peace and complete trust in the healing power of Jesus Christ. The community rallied around him with unparalleled generosity, love, prayer, and kindness. He currently is in the maintenance phase of treatment protocol which will be completed in December 2016.

Hall of Heroes: Desmond Baker

Desmond Baker

Four-year old boys seem to be naturally drawn to superheroes. Desmond was just starting to learn about superheroes when he was diagnosed with Orbital Rhabdomyosarcoma in February 2014, and he had every opportunity to act the part and fight the bad guys. He went to every chemotherapy appointment and radiation treatment wearing a cape of some sort, and usually a mask. His nurses and doctors learned to dodge imaginary freeze guns and asked for the “secret password” whenever they needed to know his birth date. There were days when the villains put up a good fight, but in the end they were no match for Desmond and his kryptonite, and Desmond was declared to show “No Evidence of the Disease” in July 2014. There haven’t been as many superheroes around our house since then, but whenever he has a follow-up appointment now or has to go to MSTI for some reason, he slips right back into superhero mode.

As parents, we never wanted to see a superhero live at our house but rather just a healthy little boy. If you’re reading this, though, you know you don’t always get to choose. Sometimes superheroes cry, throw up, lose their hair, and get angry because they don’t understand what’s happening and they don’t feel good. I feared the sunny, cheerful boy I had known was gone forever, but he slowly and surely came back. He wasn’t the same, and neither were we, but we were all stronger—just like a real superhero.

As parents, we never wanted to see a superhero live at our house but rather just a healthy little boy.”

Desmond Baker

Garrett Eberhard

Garrett Eberhard

Take one day at a time and try not to get discouraged by the unfamiliar path ahead.

Garrett was 7 years old when diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a cancer that develops in the bones. We knew his treatment would require chemotherapy on an inpatient basis, but didn’t realize just how often St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital would become our second home. It didn’t take long to recognize the competent staff, knowledgeable doctors, and compassionate nurses that stood with Garrett and our family in his battle. We appreciated how patient they were, whether it was allowing Garrett more time to compose himself for a procedure, or soothing him when he was scared. His doctors took time to play the guitar, assemble a puzzle, or talk about his favorite Lego creations and never seemed in a hurry to finish their rounds. The entire staff tenderly cared for him and always did what they could to bring a smile to his face.

Our best advice would be to understand that no matter what you have read or heard, every child’s battle is different. Just take one day at a time and try not to get discouraged by the unfamiliar path ahead. There will be days when you feel hopeful and others when you are overwhelmed by fear. There will be times when you will need someone else to lean on and other moments where you can be the one to encourage those that find themselves facing a similar diagnosis. Take comfort in knowing that your child is always surrounded by devoted people who genuinely care.

Hall of Heroes: Garret Eberhard

Hall of Heroes: Anthony Moretti

Anthony Moretti

Anthony Moretti

Anthony was diagnosed one week before his 12th birthday with mixed germ cell tumors in his brain. He spent a month in the hospital which included two surgeries and one treatment of chemotherapy. During this time we began the motto, “Fight Like a Champ”. He found ways to keep fighting no matter how tough the battle became.

Anthony had an infectious personality. He used that personality to influence others during his battle. At one point someone in every state and several other countries were praying for him. Anthony knew his fight was going to help others so he faced every treatment with courage. His fight became an inspiration to his family, friends and even strangers.

Anthony loved his family. He wanted to be surrounded by his parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. He relished the attention but most of all he needed their support. He was not alone in his fight. His family was a support to him emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Surround yourself with the people you love, do not be afraid to share your story with them. Allow them to encourage you with their words, dinners, running errands or whatever helps lessen your burden. The help from others is quite humbling, but it is a tremendous blessing.

Though Anthony cannot personally encourage others to fight and get thru the trials, he left a legacy for us all not to give up but to finish the race set before us and to always Fight Like a Champ.

Surround yourself with the people you love, do not be afraid to share your story with them.”

Garrett Register

Hall of Heroes: Garret Register

Take one day at a time and try not to get discouraged by the unfamiliar path ahead.

Our Garrett began having headaches and we didn’t think much of it at first until they became a daily occurrence. His regular doctors thought it was a flu bug. After the school started questioning Garrett’s participation and he was waking up at night in pain, I decided to take him to the ER. At that point our family was in for a life-changing experience.

The first cranial surgery revealed a large mass that was removed and thought to be benign. It was after an MRI two months later when we were told it was aggressive nerve tissue sarcoma. Garrett had another cranial surgery, six weeks of radiation, and 27 weeks of chemotherapy. Yes, it was scary, and yes, our family was in a constant fight with fear. A fight with cancer. God was with us the whole journey.

Garrett had a very rare cancer and through this experience we have discovered that “rare” does not mean unbeatable. Stay as positive as you possibly can through your journey. Believe that God is with you and pray continually. We feel truly blessed to have had such wonderful care from the doctors at MSTI and all who cared for Garrett at St. Luke’s Pediatrics.

Garrett Register

Justin Lesher

In Japanese folklore, the tiger is a symbol of protection, a guardian against evil, so when Justin graduated high school he chose to have a tiger tattooed on his arm. He shows everybody he encounters this tiger tattoo, very proudly I should add. When Justin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia a couple years after his graduation he went into battle with his cancer. At his worst moments in the ICU, when his body had gone completely septic, Justin would point as his tiger to give us confidence that he was protected and not willing to give up.

Every day that Justin’s family awoke to see that Justin was still with them was a blessing. The fear of Justin losing the battle was all to real, but he never stopped fighting and he won the war. Justin has shown all of us that no matter how bad things can look, there is always hope.

Once released from the hospital, Justin had to learn to walk again, to build up strength in his body that had been depleted during his treatment. 3 years later, he still works to regain the strength that he had prior to his cancer diagnosis, but his family and friends are amazed by his progress and persistence to live a normal life. The tiger has become a significant symbol to Justin and his family, it represents the warrior that Justin truly is.

Justin has shown all of us that no matter how bad things can look, there is always hope.”

Hall of Heroes: Justin Lesher

Justin Lesher

Hall of Heroes: Kean Barker

Kean Barker

Don’t get too excited when things go well and don’t get too down when things don’t.”

When we gave Kean his name, you’d think we had a crystal ball. Kean means “fighter,” and what a fighter he is. Before he was even born, he ignored the doctors who said he was coming that night and instead spent 75 days in his mom’s tummy on complete hospital bed rest. He surprised everyone with his Down’s syndrome and earned another 45 days in the NICU.

But that was all just a dress rehearsal for the big time. A month before his third birthday, Kean was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. So back to the hospital he went for another long stay. And while this cancer journey has been the most brutal of experiences, it has also been one of the most beautiful and tender.

Doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends and strangers will touch you with their kindness. There will be moments when you feel so utterly alone and moments when you are overwhelmed with the love being shown to you and your family. Our best advice? You are now on the most insane roller coaster ever invented. Don’t get too excited when things go well and don’t get too down when things don’t. Just hold on and keep your breathing steady. You will survive the ride.

Kean Barker

Lilyan King

Lilyan King

“We realized the importance to make the best of every situation and create fun wherever and with whatever we could.”

Lilyan was born in July of 2009 right here at St. Luke’s Boise. The first 2 years of her life were uncomplicated. However, that changed suddenly when at just two years of age she was diagnosed with High Risk, Stage IV Neuroblastoma. She had a large tumor in her abdomen and the cancer has metastasized to her bones as well, leaving her unable to walk at the time.

Her treatment was aggressive, matching the nature of the cancer. Chemo rounds began immediately over approximately four months until the tumor had shrunk enough to be removed. Lilyan was then transferred to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City for the remainder of her treatment protocol, including: two bone marrow transplants with high dose chemo, total body radiation, and a six month immunotherapy research study. Lilyan responded remarkably during treatment; at times dodging anticipated adverse reactions and exceeding the doctor’s expectations for transplant recoveries.

Lilyan is energetic, articulate, and without a doubt, strong and determined! We’ve learned to take our lead from her and have been amazed by what we’ve learned. Cancer took control of her body for the time and she hated to be out of control. So we made sure she felt powerful in every other situation possible. Throughout this journey Lilyan unknowingly reminded us to be in the moment instead of worrying about what may come. Over time, we realized the importance to make the best of every situation and create fun wherever and with whatever we could.

Hall of Heroes: Lilyan King

Hall of Heroes: Lupe Moreno

Lupe Moreno

What gives us the courage to keep going is our Faith in God.”

My name is Guadalupe and I am six years old. My parents are Silvia and Antonio. I am the sixth child and my brother before me was 16 years old when my mom gave birth to me.

When I was 3 months old, my mom took me to my Pediatrician to get my first shots. He saw mucus in my nose and was trying to get it out with a tube when I suddenly stopped breathing. My mom panicked, but the doctor said that was my way of having a temper tantrum. However he, on my mom’s insistence, sent me to St. Luke’s to have an MRI which showed a brain tumor! Preparations were made for the first round of chemo. What gave comfort during the chemo was my mom’s nursing and prayers while the venom and also miraculous medicine went into my body.

I have gone through the same routine since that first time. I go sometimes for over a year, get checked, but the thing is still there. My wonderful doctors look for new medicines, and together with my family fight to find a cure for this tumor. What gives us the courage to keep going is our Faith in God. I have an awesome family who loves me very much. My sister Jessica is like a second mom to me. And I love it when my brothers carry me on their shoulders. My therapists are also marvelous people who believe in my ability to learn new skills. I can count past 10 and also sing over six songs in both languages. Life is beautiful when you have a marvelous family like mine!

Lupe Moreno

Madison Richards

In June of 2013 our lives changed forever when Madison was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma cancer. She immediately began an aggressive chemotherapy protocol and there were some tough days, but Madison always kept a smile on her face and a cheerful attitude.

During her chemotherapy and while her immune system was depressed, Madison contracted West Nile Virus. For 4 weeks she was unable to move, walk, or talk. Throughout this time we believed she would recover and the team at St. Luke’s was even more determined. Miraculously she overcame West Nile and then underwent a successful surgery to remove her tumor and she completed her chemotherapy in August 2014. During her treatment therapy Madison spend over 140 nights in the hospital.

Madison never lost her smile and we never lost hope. Our advice to parents and families who face a traumatic experience with their child is to have faith, trust the team at St. Luke’s, and always remember that the glass is half full vs half empty. You will feel pain for your child and their condition, but celebrate the small things and then relish the successes—look for any positive you can find.

Madison is currently cancer-free and enjoying life. She will have some downstream effects from her experience but we accept each day with the motto we adopted during her treatment, “The glass is half full, the water in that glass right now is oh so sweet. It can happen.”

Have faith, trust the team at St. Luke’s, and always remember that the glass is half full.”

Madison Richards

Hall of Heroes: Madison Richards

McKenna Randis

McKenna Randis

Remember to move forward and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Hall of Heroes: McKenna Randis

Our world was turned upside down in November 2003 when our 3-year old daughter McKenna was diagnosed with a Pilocytic Astrocytoma/Hypothalamic Optic Glioma (Brain Tumor). She was immediately admitted into St. Luke’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and underwent four brain surgeries to remove portions of the tumor. In addition to the surgeries, McKenna required nearly two and a half years of chemotherapy and six weeks of proton radiation treatment. Her challenges have been significant, such as re-learning how to walk, losing her peripheral vision rendering her legally blind, and dealing with hormonal balances as a result of damage to her hypothalamus. Through all of this, McKenna goes out of her way to greet everyone with a smile and a hug. She loves to makes sure that people in need are taken care of.

Her mother and I have so many people to thank for McKenna’s care. The wonderful staff at St. Luke’s PICU and Mountain States Tumor Institute, her siblings Jarret and Kylie, our wonderful family with special thanks to grandparents, friends who continue to watch out for McKenna, and all the wonderful people from Camp Rainbow Gold who help heal our souls. Our challenges are over, but this journey has brought us many wonderful friends, experiences, and love.

Allow for sorrow, anger, and happiness, but always remember to move forward and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Nita was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor at 18 months old. I remember the surreal feeling, realizing that we were beginning a new story, a journey we didn’t ask for and couldn’t control. Now we are 11 years into the journey, and she has fought, survived, and is living a good life. We spent a year in and out of St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, walking through 12 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation with her. Through it all she kept playing and smiling and laughing. She was our little pink girl, always demanding to wear pink. She knew what she wanted, event at two years old. She beat the odds, starting to walk again just a few weeks after brain surgery. Her spirit and determination got her up and moving sooner than any of us thought she could.

We are so thankful to her wonderful doctors and nurses. This journey can be brutal, but you meet amazing people as you go through it. This community will love you and support you. If you’ve recently begun your own similar journey, take a deep breath, and then just take one step at a time. Walk, breathe, and love your child through this. All of these children have their own journey and their own story, and you will be amazed at their heart and courage.

This journey can be brutal, but you meet amazing people as you go through it.”

Nita Williams

Hall of Heroes: Nita Williams

Nita Williams

There are so many ugly sides of cancer, but the wonderful side is the community that comes to help you and your child.”

Hall of Heroes: Sarah Yenor

Sarah Yenor

Sarah Yenor

Sarah was diagnosed with Rahdomysarcoma on February 28, 2007. We decided as a family to stay in Boise and have MSTI and St. Luke’s be her primary caregiver. The care given to her was beyond exceptional. The whole staff from MSTI, PEDS, PICU, Blood Bank, Imaging, Surgery, Janitorial, Hospital School, Pharmacy, and Gift Store all knew Sarah by name. After 3 months of her chemotherapy and radiation, her liver started to shut down and she developed Veno Occlusive disease, a rare side effect. She was admitted to PICU and after 4 months of living on the 4th floor, she was released to continue her cancer fight. In May 2008 she completed her treatment. Today, she is a thriving 14 year old in remission for almost 7 years.

Live each day to the fullest, have faith that your child will overcome the “fight,” be patient, trust the remarkable medical team, and finally let people help you. There are so many ugly sides of cancer, but the wonderful side is the community that comes to help you and your child in the cancer fight. Embrace it.

Savannah Johnson

Savannah Johnson

She has been an inspiration to her friends and family for her attitude in fighting this battle and she doesn’t plan on giving up.”

Hall of Heroes: Savannah Johnson

Savannah was diagnosed in 2012 at age 9 with Bone Cancer. Around Christmastime a tumor broke her arm and after X-rays and MRI scans determined most of all of her bones were infected with cancer.

Following her diagnosis, she, like many kids, underwent intense chemo and multiple surgeries. Through all of this her spirit has been the inspiration to many, as she even in the hospital told jokes, sang and danced and always gave a fight through it all. She has been an inspiration to her friends and family for her attitude in fighting this battle and she doesn’t plan on giving up. In fact, don’t be surprised if you catch her singing and dancing even on her worst days and chime in with her. One of her goals in life is to be a childhood cancer doctor and you can bet with her determination, she will!

Shaelyn Simis

Shaelyn Simis

Shaelyn’s motto through it all has been: ‘Sometimes you just have to be brave.'”

Hall of Heroes: Shaelyn Simis

At six years old, Shaelyn was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma on February 11, 2013. What appeared to be a stubborn wart was actually Melanoma. Pediatric Melanoma affects about one in ten million children. Pediatric Melanoma is not necessarily caused from sun exposure but from a genetic defect causing cell abnormalities. Because it is so rare, there are not a lot of treatment options other than treating as an adult. The goal of Shae’s initial surgery was to see if the Melanoma had spread to any lymph nodes. Upon confirming that there was lymph node involvement, Shae underwent a five hour surgery to complete a radical lymph node dissection removing two salivary glands as well as 52 lymph nodes on the left side of her neck. After the surgery, Shae had a picc line placed and was seen five days per week for one month. While at MSTI she received interferon injections in her stomach and continued that treatment at home. She receives dermatology checks every six months, ultrasounds every four months, CT scans every six months and a yearly MRI to check for spread of the disease.

We truly feel blessed to have had Shae under the care of Dr. Nathan Meeker and staff at MSTI, Dr. Todd Rustad, Surgeon and Dr. Matthew Bender, Dermatologist. Shealeyn is now 8 years old and currently NED.

Shaelyn’s motto through it all has been and continues to be: “Sometimes you just have to be brave.” She is our strength!

Sometimes it is sad, but as a family we have learned so much about living, loving, and being there for one another.”

Hall of Heroes: Spencer Baderman

Spencer Baderman

Spencer Baderman

When Spencer was diagnosed our family had just returned home from his little brother’s heart transplant at Stanford. We thought there was no way we could get through another critical illness. Spencer took the reigns and let us know we were all going to make it through. On the day he was diagnosed and began treatment there was not a dry eye in the hospital. All of the medical staff had gotten to know us because of Spencer’s little brother Noah. Spencer has always been a strong support for our family and especially for Noah. For him to be sick was just devastating.

From the first day of treatment Spencer looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, I am just sick! I will get better!” and he meant it. Spencer has been out of treatment for 5 years now and is doing great. His experience with cancer and the friends he has made along the way has changed his life forever. He has formed friendships that will last forever, he has lost close friends to cancer, and he continues to advocate for childhood cancer research every year. 2015 will mark Spencer’s 9th year of shaving his head with St Baldrick’s to stand in solidarity with childhood cancer fighters,survivors and angel’s. Cancer has changed our world! Sometimes it is sad, but as a family we have learned so much about living, loving, and being there for one another.

Stacia Mers

Hall of Heroes: Stacia Mers

On Friday, February 12, 2010 following her Kindergarten Valentine’s Day Party, Stacia was diagnosed with a large brain tumor – medulloblastoma. The tumor was the size of a small lemon in the back of her brain blocking spinal fluid flow between her brain and spinal column (hence the reason for the headaches and double vision she began experiencing the previous 4 weeks). A drain line was put in her head to reduce the pressure on her brain and eyes the very same day. On Tuesday, February 16, Stacia had brain surgery lasting approximately 8 hours to remove the tumor. As big of an accomplishment as this was, we knew the battle had just begun…

Following surgery, she could not speak for several days and did not walk for 3 weeks. Her right side was greatly impacted by the surgery – she had minimal strength, so she had to re-learn many every day tasks. She then proceeded to have 6 weeks of radiation, 3 separate surgeries (eye, sinus, appendix) followed by 12 months of chemotherapy. She completed her treatment in April of 2011. During her treatment, she also underwent counseling and intense physical therapy. She did all this while remaining connected with her class and did not skip a year academically.

Stacia has been very brave and courageous! Her advice to other kids is “Stay calm, stay strong, and don’t worry!” She even wrote a book entitled “Cancer, Chemo & Cupcakes” to help other kids going through a similar situation. Today, Stacia is an active 11 year old participating in skiing, knee boarding, swimming, cheerleading, Girl Scouts and singing.

Stacia Mers

Her advice to other kids is ‘Stay calm, stay strong, and don’t worry!'”

Bruises are normal on a rambunctious 3 year old boy. But when our son Steele was bruising instantaneously and even had one inside his ear, we became alarmed and quickly got him into the pediatrician. Within three hours, we were in St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. The earth shifted beneath us with the oncologist’s words: “Steele has leukemia.” We could hardly process this diagnosis as we watched him energetically jumping around the room! Within a few days, he was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL).

Luckily, Steele has lived up to his name- he is strong willed and tough. He is a fierce fighter who prides himself on having the biggest muscles of his four siblings! Through the course of Steele’s diagnosis and treatment, we have experienced the most agonizing pain and heartache of our lives. Yet, we have been equally humbled by the outpouring of love and service given to us. We have learned even in dark trials you can find hope and many reasons to be grateful. Having cancer become a part of your life isn’t fair. It isn’t worth trying to figure out the “why”. Some friends have said, “I don’t know how you do it; I couldn’t handle it.” The truth is you can’t handle cancer until it becomes a part of your life, then you CAN and you WILL. Your positive outlook and hope in the future will make all the difference for you and your child.

The truth is you can’t handle cancer until it becomes a part of your life, then you CAN and you WILL.”

Steele Roetto

Hall of Heroes: Steele Roetto

Steele Roetto

Taylor Knapp

Hall of Heroes: Taylor Knapp

There is ALWAYS hope, always SOMETHING to be grateful for.”

Taylor Knapp

Taylor had just turned eleven when she was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia, a rare bone marrow failure disorder causing symptoms similar to leukemia. After initial testing, the doctor sat down with us and said, “The good news is, it is not leukemia. The bad news is, leukemia is easier to treat”.

She is our hero because she never once felt sorry for herself. Because of treatments and low ANC, she missed most of 6th grade, as well her senior year when she relapsed. She kept her mind off of her situation by spending time with her 6 year old cousin who was also receiving treatments at the hospital. During this time, she became inspired by the younger children who were fighting cancer and she realized that her purpose in life was to help others going through tough medical situations.

Today, Taylor is 22 years old and is working as a CAP at St. Luke’s and going to school full time to become an RN. She seems happiest at work, especially when working with children or on the oncology floor.

Lessons learned: There is ALWAYS hope, always SOMETHING to be grateful for. Life can be hard, but it makes the good times sweeter. No experience in life is wasted, even the not-so-fun parts. Life has a way of bringing people to you who have walked the path before you right when you need them. And someday YOU will be that person to guide and encourage a family new to the journey. 

Photo Credit:Bell of the Ball Photography