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Running towards better days

Running towards better days

Xavier is a 17-year-old from Westchester County, NY who is on maintenance treatment for T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He lives with his mother Antheya and his 15-year-old brother Zach and shares how Friends of Karen helped him and his family.

“I love to run and am on the cross country team at my high school and the season had just ended when I noticed over the next few weeks that it was getting harder to breathe. I started wheezing just sitting still. Things kept getting worse and even my friends noticed I looked sick. Then, a few days after Thanksgiving in 2022, I was in the shower and noticed that every time I took a breath there was a pain in my shoulder.

Soon after I couldn’t sleep, and suddenly there was an orange-sized growth on my neck, so my mom took me to urgent care. The doctor there thought I might have a collapsed lung, so I went to the hospital where I had a ton of tests. The test results showed a grapefruit-sized mass pushing against my heart and my lungs were filled with fluid. The doctors were amazed I had been so active with all this going on.

I was transferred to the children’s hospital, and they tested the fluid in my lungs and found that I had cancer. I had been hoping it was just an infection, so this news left me numb. I didn’t have much time to think as the next day they had a roadmap for my treatment and they started by putting in a chest tube, a PICC line in my arm, and I had to go through a spinal tap which was the worst pain of my life. Then I was able to start chemotherapy. For weeks I was afraid to tell my friends because I knew that if a friend told me they had cancer I’d be devastated. I did not want anyone to worry about me or treat me differently.

My mom learned about Friends of Karen from a friend. Our Friends of Karen social worker Rhonda has been there for my mom. Whatever makes my mom feel better makes me feel better, so I am glad that Rhonda helped her deal with my health insurance which seemed to be very confusing. Friends of Karen also helped my mom pay some of the bills for my doctor visits, surgeries, and chemotherapy which can add up fast.

Friends of Karen sent Zach and me gifts for Christmas which came at a very dark time for us after my diagnosis, so it was appreciated. I spoke weekly to my Friends of Karen sibling support specialist Melissa who has helped me quell any anxiety I am feeling. Without Friends of Karen our lives would have been a lot sadder, and things would have been tougher for my mom.” – Xavier