What Does ‘Cancer Free’ Look Like to a 10 Year Old?

The end of June signifies so many milestones – another school year complete, my youngest daughter celebrates a birthday, and my son celebrates another year of living life cancer free!

My boy was diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumour when he was 10 months old. It’s a tumour that grows on the kidney and isn’t usually found until a child is 3-7 Mitch Hospitalyears old, and is commonly found at Stage 4 because there are virtually no symptoms. He was extremely fussy from birth and we just thought the ‘colic’ would never end! The diagnosis came quite by accident – or not. He had the flu and his colour just didn’t look right. After a visit to the doctor, life catapulted us into a world we knew nothing about. Ten days later Mitchell was in surgery to have both the tumour and his left kidney removed, called a radical nephrectomy. The surgeon did a dance (seriously) when he announced that they had successfully removed the entire mass, and proceeded to kiss me on the cheek.

Mitch spent his first Christmas in the hospital. On Boxing Day he had a second surgery to insert the port (I-VAD) they would use to deliver chemo for the next 6 months. When the biopsy came back to determine what stage he was at, everyone in the Pediatric Oncology Ward was overjoyed that it was Stage 1. That meant his prognosis was 96% sure of complete recovery. In June 2002, he was declared “cured”.

At 10.5 years old (he won’t let me forget the .5), my boy has more energy than the rest of my household put together. He can recite sports stats like nobody’s business, knows almost every player and what team they’re on for hockey, football and basketball. His favourite (without influence from his mama) is Wayne Gretzky, sports an Oilers jersey with #99 on it, and asks if we can drive down Wayne Gretzky drive every time we go to Edmonton. He ‘pwns’ at soccer, so he says. He loves Mr. Bean, and the Angry Birds game.

When he grows up he wants to be an oncologist…hmm…along with being a fireman, a policeman, a paramedic and an NHL player. He’s not played a game of hockey in his life. Yet. He says he’s going to have 6 houses in various parts of the world and will let me live in one of them, knows he’s going to be rich, and wants to sponsor a child through World Vision. He collects bottles, and with his money he usually buys something for each of his sisters, not just himself.

A good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and has had to face surgery and is now in chemotherapy. Out of the blue, Mitch asked the other day if she still had cancer. It was the day she started chemo. We talked about how we should pray for her as a family, and I shared that I prayed for her often by myself. In his ‘don’t ya know’ voice he proceeded to inform me, “Well Mom, I pray for her lots at night by myself too.” That’s my Mitch.

He can’t watch scary movies, he worries that I’m mad at him, he gasps when he hears sirens because he doesn’t want anyone to be hurt, and he asks me if I’m okay every time I yelp from stubbing my toe or something.

He tells me he loves me a bazillion times a day.

That’s what cancer free looks like to a 10 year old. Pretty amazing, I say. (Oops, 10.5!)

childrens wish foundation

WhenMitch & Mickey Mitch was 3, he was able to make a wish through the Children’s Wish Foundation. We had no idea the scope of what we would receive. When faced with months of treatment, it takes a toll on every aspect of life. Knowing he could wish for whatever he wanted was a surreal and humbling experience.

Mitch just wanted to meet Mickey Mouse. He didn’t care about going to Disney or anything else. His heart was set on meeting Mickey. Children’s Wish sent us for a 4 day Disney World / 3 day Disney cruise excursion. No sooner did we get to our first destination – Epcot Centre – and there was Mickey. It couldn’t have been orchestrated any better! Mitchell and his older sister still talk in detail about our trip.

This past week, I was so proud both as a Wish Mom and a volunteer, to see another wish be granted, as the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge were in Calgary and took time to meet little Diamond Marshall on the tarmac at the airport. In 27 years, Children’s Wish has granted every wish requested, and to have been able to grant this particular wish is astounding. For more on the Canadian organization that helps kids with life threatening illnesses realize their dream, or to read the Will & Kate story, please go to http://www.childrenswish.ca/.

Mitch with Dave Kelly, MC

Children’s Wish Gala 2009


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  1. #1 by April on July 12, 2011 - 11:57 pm

    I will always remember turkey dinner in the hospital and watching sweet Mitch just lay quietly and still in his bed. I am so thankful for all of the amazing work that God has done in his life, and rejoice in the fact that he continues to be a miracle and a witness to others. We love you Mitch amd are so proud of the fine young man that you’ve become.

    • #2 by shandracarlson on July 13, 2011 - 8:57 am

      Seems like yesterday, but also a lifetime ago hey? The turkey dinner was a welcomed gift, and tasty too! 🙂

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    "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." ~ Jack Kerouac
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