September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and to recognize all of our families, the board is launching a new feature for this website: the "Our Stories" blog. In this blog, we will highlight and update the stories of Building Smiles families - tell us about your experiences as a patient, a parent, or a family member. Here at Building Smiles, we want to celebrate YOUR life! Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org - please include your story in written form, and feel free to include photos and videos that we can publish alongside your story.
,In 2009 Adam was a happy go lucky high school freshman. He spent the fall marching with his high school band and running cross country. In fact, in December of 2009, right before his 15th birthday, Adam ran his first sub 5 minute mile!
After the Christmas break, Adam’s coach noticed his running form change. Adam admitted he had some pain after the first mile or so. His family assumed an injury and acted accordingly. Turns out, it wasn’t just a running injury. On February 2, 2010, Adam was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
To say life changed was an understatement. Adam spent 28 days in the hospital, 8 months on homebound instruction out of school - he called it “House Arrest,” and 4.5 years on chemotherapy. Yes, 4.5 years!
But, Adam refused to let cancer take the joy out of his life. He had visitors as often as he could, did a huge Relay for Life team, rode his bike with the cross country team until he could run again - although he never got under 7 minute miles and wasn’t able to run Varsity, so no letter jacket for running, he still wanted to be part of the team.
Adam went back to marching with the band, ran the spirit flags during football games and graduated number 3 in his class! All this, even though he missed 2-3 school days each week for chemotherapy. He refused to let cancer take over. Not all children are that fortunate.
Even Adam recognized that he was “lucky” in a sense. He declined his Make A Wish trip because he wanted the foundation to have more for the younger kids. He also attended Building Smiles Events with his fellow patients, but would forgo the activities so “more would be left for the younger children.” Or, he would take his items directly to the hospital for the children who couldn’t attend the events. When Building Smiles hosted a Build A Bear event, Adam would make and name a bear and have his parents drive him to the hospital after the event. The same thing would happen at the Christmas event. Adam would request games for different ages as his gift. He would sit on the side arm of Santa’s chair, say thank you for his gifts, ooh and ahh over all the younger children’s gifts but not even open his own. He wanted to let the kiddos in the hospital open them.
This was Adam’s way of coping and giving back. It was his way of convincing himself that “he wasn’t that sick.”
We are happy to report that although Adam had some residual health issues and had to continue receiving IV immunoglobulin treatments to boost his immune system for an additional 18 months, he has been off all treatment since his junior year in college. He graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2018 and was able to land his dream job as an engineer with SpaceX.
We at Building Smiles Foundation hope to bring smiles, joy and hope to as many children facing a cancer diagnosis and the hard treatment that comes with that. We hope positive interactions and activities will help these children and their families find a smile as often as possible.