TAYLOR MATT

My name is Taylor Matt. I’m seventeen years old. I am a high school senior and I’m currently battling leukemia for the second time. I was first diagnosed with leukemia when I was eleven, about to turn twelve. I fought through it with confidence and the desire of just getting it all over with. After being fully in remission for almost five years… I’m back. But now it’s a completely different story. There I was about to start my senior year looking forward to playing tennis, indoor track, and lacrosse. Attending all the fun school functions with all the privilege that comes with being a senior and most of all graduating. Last August, about a week before my school year started, my whole course for the year changed. I’m here, in the hospital, instead of in school, no school functions or sports for me. Still looking forward to graduating… but it’s just not the same. To put it nicely, it bites the big one. But I still look at it positively; I know that I’ll do well and make it through. The environment at the hospital really helps with the long stays. Hopefully I’ll be done soon enough and my life will go back to “normal.” Until then I’ll just have to make the best of it and take each day as it comes. 🙂

SARAH HUFF

UPDATE: In December of 2009, when I was a freshman at SUNY Oswego, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in my cerebellum, the part of your brain that controls balance and coordination. After having the tumor removed on February 1, 2010, I found out that my tumor was in fact a cancer called Medulloblastoma.

Upon hearing this upsetting news, I decided on a 14-month treatment plan to save my life. Even though I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed, because Medulloblastoma is primarily a pediatric cancer, I was treated at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

After my last treatment in June 2011, I was more than ready to get back to living my life as normally as possible. I spent that summer enjoying the beautiful beach at my family camp on Lake Ontario with all the wonderful people who supported me and my family through such a hard time. That October, I chose to return to my part-time job at Wegmans as a pharmacy technician. My original plans to become a high school math teacher have changed. After the amazing medical and emotional support I received from the compassionate staff at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, I have decided to return to college in hopes of finding a more fulfilling career helping others.

I am often reminded how blessed I am to have Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital so close to home. It is a beautiful facility but there is no doubt in my mind that the doctors, nurses and other caregivers make this hospital what it is. You are all wonderful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do!

TIM CONNERS

JOSHUA MEEKER

On March 10, 2011, twelve year old Joshua was diagnosed with a rare, fast-moving form of cancer called Burkitt’s Leukemia (B-cell ALL). After a month of illness, a trip to the emergency room revealed two large tumors in his abdomen. Joshua was admitted to
the hospital and started on aggressive chemo right away.

Joshua started a new chemo round every three weeks. He’d spend a week in the hospital and then two weeks at home. Much of the in-between time was spent in the hospital due to fevers and complications. He made frequent trips to the OR to have chemo put in his spine and for bone marrow tests. Joshua was very sick for many, many months, but fought like a champ. He was supposed to finish his chemo last October.

But then, with just two chemo rounds to go, Joshua relapsed into his central nervous system. Chemo had to begin all over again. Joshua also had cranial radiation and had
an Ommaya reservoir put into his head to deliver the chemo directly into the brain.
Our hope is that this will kill any hiding cancer cells Joshua has had a difficult road
but is doing really well right now.

He is scheduled to be done with treatment in May! There is a high risk of relapsing again, but he is a strong young man and we are optimistic that he’ll forever be a survivor! Joshua loves science, reading, and camping, and looks forward to being done with all this cancer stuff and going back to normal life again. He can’t wait to get back to school, and wants everyone to know that cancer doesn’t define him and that he is hopeful for the future!

UPDATE: On March 10, 2011, at age 12, Joshua was diagnosed with Burkitt’s leukemia. The next 14 months involved one relapse, 20-30 trips to the OR, 10+ trips to the ER, tumor lysis, facial paralysis, seizure/stroke activity, stem cell harvest, lung collapse, oxygen tube, intubation, dozens of blood and platelet transfusions, an ICU stay, hundreds of needle pokes, more scans than I can count, radiation, and 18 rounds of IV, intrathecal, intraomma, and oral chemo. He had a chest and a head port, and spent hundreds of days in the hospital. Plus a few times when we were told we could lose him. However, Joshua defied his low survival odds and, by God’s grace and mercy. is here to mark this day. The road to recovery has been long, but Joshua has almost hit the two year mark out of treatment, and continues to improve every day! He is now 15 years old, doing wonderfully in 9th grade, and enjoys his class at Faith Heritage School. Joshua recently joined a gym and was able to walk a mile for the first time in years! He’s continually getting stronger, loves his family and playing video games, and infects everyone around him with his dry humor. We’re thankful for our team at Golisano, and credit them with saving Joshua’s life. Joshua looks forward to the rest of his life being cancer-free!

WILLIAM RELYEA

Following months of concern over obscure symptoms and misdiagnoses, William’s devastating diagnosis of Stage III Neuroblastoma was made in December 2009, when he was 6 months old. William had an inoperable 10cm tumor encapsulating nearly all the vital organs, blood vessels and nerves in his abdomen. He endured chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and then underwent an aggressive 9-hour tumor resection surgery.
The surgery was successful in eradicating the cancer; though it took an immeasurable
toll on his young body.

Our family has celebrated William’s “No Evidence of Disease” status since February 2010! His tumor surgery proved to be the beginning of serious new challenges for William however, as he continues to face life-threatening complications from his cancer treatment. His body is now fully dependent on 24-hour IV nutrition, requiring him to carry a backpack nearly one quarter his body weight throughout the day. William has battled through serious septic blood infections, endured multiple surgeries, countless hours under anesthesia and continues to require frequent hospitalizations.

Despite all this, William is a very active, fun-loving and happy toddler. Through this journey, he has only impressed us with his resiliency and determination. William mastered the milestone of crawling and walking, all while carrying his own little backpack containing an IV pump and fluids. We are continually amazed at the things
he has taught us – immense strength, courage and enduring love.

 

UPDATE: William is a fun-loving, spirited preschooler who is captivated by animals and underwater exploration. He loves getting dirty in his garden, squeals with excitement for swinging really high and enjoys exploring the village of Baldwinsville on his electric John Deere Gator.

The average person would never imagine that this 5-year-old is a cancer survivor. At 6 months old, William was diagnosed with Stage 3 Neuroblastoma. After undergoing chemotherapy and multiple surgeries as part of his cancer treatment, complications have damaged William’s GI track. One may think that the backpack he carries holds a collection of his favorite toys, instead it contains a bag of life-sustaining IV fluids and a pump which administers them to his body throughout the day. This has been a part of William’s daily life since his cancer treatment ended over 4 years ago.

Like many other children diagnosed with cancer, William continues to face life-altering medical challenges due to cancer treatment. William’s story is one of love, courage and hope. His family feels his zest for life is the driving force behind his overall wellness. He inspires those around him to fully appreciate healthy times and make the most of them.

Our community is fortunate to have Golisano Children’s Hospital. We are truly thankful to Paige’s Butterfly Run for the services, research and programs they provide our children and families in their greatest time of need.

CAROLINE KAY MOCH

UPDATE: Last fall at age 5, Caroline was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumor for kids in her right parotid gland.  She had 2 surgeries at Upstate to remove the tumor and didn’t require any further treatment (we are extremely thankful for that).  Now 6 years old,  she has survived cancer twice and is a healthy and thriving kindergartner. She is one tough little girl.

When we welcomed our beautiful, healthy baby girl into this world in January of 2011, we never expected that nine months later she would be diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).  After several weeks of ear infections, low grade fever, and sleepless nights her blood work showed that something was really wrong.  On Caroline’s first Halloween we were sent to the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology floor of  Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. The next day we heard the words that no parent wants to hear. Our baby girl had cancer. She immediately started treatment and our lives were turned upside down.

We spent 65 consecutive days and many more in the hospital, including Caroline’s first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday. Words cannot be used to describe how difficult it is to watch your baby endure painful procedures and receive chemotherapy. It is even more difficult when you have another child to care for as well. Our family was torn between home and the hospital. With the support of so many, we got through this hard time. Eventually, Caroline came home and spent the reminder of her chemotherapy as an outpatient. It was a very long two years.

Caroline is now done with treatment. On Halloween of 2013, she received her last dose of chemotherapy!! We celebrated on her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World in November. The trip was magical in many ways. As parents we were so thrilled to see our baby girl healthy again. She was finally enjoying the things that little girls should be enjoying. Nothing means more to us than seeing Caroline and her older sister having fun and enjoying life together. Caroline makes a beautiful princess, and her strength and courage make her even more magical in her own way!!

Watching your child suffer because of cancer is something no parent should have to go through. We are grateful for the care that Caroline received at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Having such an amazing staff of Oncology doctors and nurses right here in Syracuse made a very painful experience a little less difficult. Their support and care has been invaluable to us. Looking at Caroline today, it is hard to imagine what she has gone through. She is going to be our little hero forever!

MARY KATHERINE

Hello my name is Mary Katherine. I was born with stage 4 Neuroblastoma Cancer and though my treatment left me with a learning disability and PTSD, I am still a healthy teenager able to do almost everything my friends do. I go to Bishop Ludden and live with my mom and dad and have five sisters. I thank God everyday for letting me live because
I love my family, friends and ETC . . . I was a miracle child and I am proud of it.

I want to be an inspiration to kids who are sick because I know myself, cancer is a very hard thing to go through for you and families, but we can get through it together. Having cancer does not mean you are not intelligent, or anything like that, you are a perfect person for your age and always will be. I know I had spent hours and hours in hospitals, surgery and had a renal spleen shunt and I don’t remember many things but
I do remember some things.

I have been cancer free for many years now and hope to be always. I look forward to my future in becoming a counselor and I hope in my future I can help kids and inspire kids with this horrible disease to keep on moving, it will get better! I know that people had prayed for me (even people I didn’t know) and with God?s help and the help of others
I fortunately survived this horrible disease. I believe people who keep their faith will
get answers.

Today, I love music, going to the gym, hanging out with family and friends and helping people. Thanks to University Hospital, Crouse Hospital, and family and friends I survived
a tough battle and hope for everyone who is battling this hard thing that you have hope and faith; it always works, good luck to all!

CONNOR LICAMELE

Connor was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor (Kidney Cancer) at 4 1/2 years old, Since that time we still continue our fight EVERYDAY, Things are easier, things get better….but Childhood Cancer always remains and the affects it brought with it remain as well.

Connor continues to fight the battle of the long term side effects daily, his stomach issues seem to be continuously worse which bring additional testing and medicines, as well as his short term memory, causing school to be a continuous struggle and effort for him.

Cancer has become more a part of Connor’s life, remembering and talking about it more often than not. His curiously about this disease leaves him with many questions, but I BELIEVE this only makes Connor fight to remain stronger every day.

Connor continues to go to Upstate Medical/Golisano Children’s Hospital every 3 months for check-ups and scans, In May Connor will have his 3 years Off Treatment scan day, if it continues to show NO EVIDENCE of DISEASE, he will move up to every 6 months, A huge feat and day that I have anxiously awaited!

JACK PODKAMINER

Jack Stanley Podkaminer gained his angel wings just 12 days short of his third birthday, after a 10 month battle with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS).? Jack was diagnosed in late April 2013, and was incredibly brave and tough through his treatments. Chemotherapy started on April 25, 2013, at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and more than two months were spent in Boston for chemotherapy and proton beam radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital. Jack had excellent scans in September 2013 after radiation had been completed. But during his next round of scans on December 17, 2013, it was discovered that his cancer had relapsed in the primary site behind his throat and metastasized to his brain. Jack continued to fight, as a few different chemotherapy protocols were attempted. Jack passed away in his parents arms, surrounded by close family and friends on February 6, 2014. Jack was such a strong and courageous fighter. He is especially missed by his parents Becky and Josh, his big brother Witt, and little sister Ellison. He will forever be loved and remembered by all who were touched by his presence.