Illness and injury shouldn’t dim the brightness of the holidays for kids. Help us preserve the magic of childhood – year-round – for our patients by supporting CHOC Children’s the following ways this holiday season:
Donate: Give back through a one time, monthly or annual gift or make a tribute donation in honor of someone special. Donate now: www.choc.org/donate
Purchase KidsArt: Give one-of-a-kind greeting cards or gifts designed by CHOC patients. Shop now. www.choc.org/kidsart
Brodie’s cancer survivor party was a chance to celebrate the completion of his cancer treatment by gathering his family and friends for an epic Nerf battle. Wanting to give back to other CHOC Children’s patients, the twelve-year-old boy turned his celebration into a fundraiser. Brodie used the proceeds to buy Legos, journals, games—all his favorite things while in treatment—to brighten the days of other children battling cancer.
“He wanted to buy more of the things that helped break up his time while he was at CHOC,” says mom Megan. “If you ask Brodie what he wants to be when he grows up, he says ‘I just want to make people happy.’”
Brodie’s journey to a diagnosis
Brodie’s path from initial symptoms to a diagnosis was long. While practicing karate at home, his dad Marcus noticed that his left side didn’t have any “oomph.” Over the next few days, he and Megan realized Brodie was losing coordination in his left hand and left foot.
The first few doctors who saw Brodie ruled out a tumor but couldn’t identify what was causing his loss of coordination. An MRI revealed something on Brodie’s basal ganglia—a collection of nerve cells deep within the brain that help control movement. They were eventually told that Brodie had likely suffered a stroke. Later, another specialist thought it might be iron accumulation on the brain.
“Something looked wrong, but nobody could tell us exactly what it was,” said Marcus.
The family spent 18 months crisscrossing the country, seeking out various pediatric specialists on their quest for answers.
During this time, Brodie had another issue—every five months or so, he would go blind in his left eye for a few days. There was no discernible reason for this loss of vision.
Their quest eventually led them to Dr. Raymond Wang, a pediatric metabolic disorder specialist at CHOC Children’s. He was able to rule out a genetic reason for Brodie’s symptoms, and encouraged the family to seek out the care of the CHOC neurology team. The next time Brodie lost vision in his eye, the family headed for the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital. Brodie underwent another MRI, but this time from a different angle due to his eye condition.
They found a tumor.
Another starting line
“The news that Brodie had a brain tumor was not the finish line of the 18-month journey we had been on,” Marcus says. “That was actually the beginning of yet another journey, this one at CHOC.”
The family was introduced to Dr. Ashley Plant, a pediatric oncologist at CHOC Children’s.
“Not only was she professional and a top-quality doctor, but she was also very warm and empathetic in that first meeting,” Marcus says. “She even gave my wife a hug, which made a lasting positive impression.”
Dr. Plant explained that Brodie needed to undergo a biopsy to determine whether the tumor was cancerous or not. Dr. Joffrey Olaya, a pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC, performed the biopsy.
“I was scared to death when he went in for the biopsy. But I knew we were in very good hands with Dr. Plant and Dr. Olaya,” Marcus says.
The biopsy confirmed the mass in Brodie’s brain was a cancerous tumor known as a germinoma. Germ cells are the reproductive cells in an unborn baby. Germ cells that grow in an unusual way can become a tumor. Often, those tumors form in the ovaries or testes. Sometimes during an embryo’s development, these cells can migrate to the brain and result in intracranial (within the skull) germ cell tumors.
A doctor unlike the rest
Throughout their lengthy journey to find a diagnosis, Megan and Marcus had met many different specialists. They consider Dr. Plant a guide on their son’s treatment journey.
“We were, and continue to be, super impressed with Dr. Plant because not all doctors are like her, and we’ve seen a lot of doctors,” Marcus says. “That doesn’t mean they’re not good, but they don’t all have the same bedside manner as she does.”
Throughout the course of Brodie’s treatment, Megan and Marcus had a lot of decisions to make. In those difficult moments, Dr. Plant was right beside them.
“She provided us with all the information we needed to make responsible decisions, but didn’t make decisions for us,” Marcus recalls. “She helped us make the ultimate decisions as his parents.”
Brodie’s treatment plan included six months of chemotherapy at CHOC, followed by seven weeks of proton radiation in San Diego.
Post-treatment, Brodie has returned to CHOC every few months for an MRI of his brain and a check-up with Dr. Olaya.
“We were so grateful to have Dr. Olaya in our corner because he’s always on the ball. He’s very sharp and conscientious, but also very caring,” Megan says. “It might tell you something that when Dr. Olaya comes in the room, Brodie jumps up and gives him a bear hug.”
Finding a familiar face at CHOC
While Brodie was admitted to CHOC Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy, he was visited by a child life specialist from The Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department, a group who strives to normalize the hospital environment for children and their families.
Child life specialists can engage patients in medical play to help them understand procedures and make tests less scary, bring their favorite toys and movies to their rooms, and show them amenities around the hospital like Turtle Talk and Seacrest Studios.
Shayli, the first child life specialist to visit Brodie’s room, turned out to be an old family friend.
“She looked familiar, but as soon as she said her name, a lightbulb went off—we knew her!” Marcus said. “Megan and I have been friends with Shayli’s parents for years, and they’re great people. But we hadn’t seen Shayli since she was a baby—and now here she is, taking care of our son.”
Shayli knew that Brodie loved Star Wars, so whenever characters would make special visits to the hospital, she made sure they didn’t leave before making a special stop in Brodie’s room.
Although Brodie spent a lot of time in his room resting during chemotherapy treatments, he made many visits to the child life playroom as well.
“For a while, it felt like we lived at CHOC, and it was great to have the ability to take Brodie to the play room for air hockey, or watch a movie or play a video game,” Marcus recalls. “There’s nothing you wouldn’t do to take your child’s mind off chemotherapy treatment.”
Despite countless doctor’s appointments and treatments over the last few years, Brodie has no fear of hospitals.
“He’s never met a stranger. Everyone he meets becomes an instant friend,” Megan says. “Brodie gets so excited to see Dr. Plant and the rest of his team. If I tell him that he has an MRI coming up, he’ll say, ‘Sweet!’”
With cancer behind him, Brodie is feeling more like himself. He loves Lego sets, playing X-box with his younger brother Finn, and swimming.
Lucie, age 13, is no stranger to performing. The budding pianist started playing piano when she was 6 years old, won her first local competition at 7, first international competition at age 9, and currently takes private lessons in addition to attending a performing arts school.
Earlier this year, Lucie’s piano teacher encouraged her to perform in a solo recital for the first time. Lucie’s first thought wasn’t about which songs she would perform or if she would feel nervous on stage — it was about turning the recital into a benefit concert.
Lucie had briefly been a patient in CHOC Children’s emergency department when she was a baby, but her connection to CHOC runs deeper. Her mom Carolyn has been a clinical pharmacist at CHOC for a decade.
“Lucie has grown up hearing about exciting new treatments we’re continuously offering at CHOC, the new technologies we get in the pharmacy, and the important work done for children in our community,” Carolyn says.
Like many people in her community, Lucie has known family members and friends who have received care at CHOC as well.
All of that made Lucie’s decision to choose CHOC as a beneficiary of her concert an easy one.
“I’m grateful to CHOC for treating my friends, relatives, neighbors, and classmates, and I wanted to give back. And this was the perfect opportunity,” Lucie says.
Her decision to give back to CHOC made her mom very proud.
“As much as I wanted Lucie to choose CHOC, I felt it was important for her to choose a non-profit that was close to her heart. So, when she told me she chose CHOC, I was beyond thrilled,” Carolyn says.
Lucie’s concert raised more than $2,000 in support of KidsCARE, a fund that provides unrestricted financial support to meet the greatest needs of the hospital.
Throughout this experience, Lucie has gained a deeper understanding of the importance of giving back, her mom says.
“When children learn the importance of philanthropy, it helps instill altruistic values and helps them develop empathy for others,” Carolyn says. “By giving back, they learn they can make a difference in society, even at a young age. This experience reminded Lucie of everything positive in her life. She gained an important lesson in humanity that will be helpful for the rest of her life.”
Lucie hopes to inspire others to give back.
“To any other young person who wants to give back, I would say don’t be intimidated. It may seem overwhelming to start your own fundraiser, but it’s not. It doesn’t have to be this grand event; it could be something as simple as a neighborhood bake sale or lemonade stand,” she says. “Think of an activity you will enjoy doing. Enlist your family members and friends to help out. Take advantage of social media to spread the word about your fundraiser. Regardless of how much you raise in the end, know that what you did is important and makes an impact for the patients at CHOC.”
Enjoy the Southern California weather on Choco’s custom boat and support CHOC’s mental health programs at the same time. A portion of every rental will support these programs, and a generous donor is making waves with a $50,000 matching gift.
For rental information, please visit the Lido Marina Village Electric Boat Rental website at eboatsrental.com to get started and select “Book Now.” Be sure to select the CHOC boat.
You can also sponsor a ride on the boat for a CHOC family dealing with a serious illness or injury. Two-hour vouchers/gift certificates can be purchased at the rental office or online at eboatsrental.com. For a tax-deductible gift, make your gift via check or online donation to CHOC Foundation and designate it towards “CHOC Boat Ride.”
Stay Informed about Mental Health
CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.
By Alice Kim, clinical pharmacist at CHOC Children’s
Mental health is an important part of overall health. Therapy is important, but sometimes, medication is necessary to improve or maintain our mental ...
My niece Isabella will be 12 in a couple of months. There will be the mandatory cake and candles, I’m sure, along with family, food, noise, the usual. We will look at those family photos later, and we will all know that there are dozens of people missing from every single picture ― all the doctors and nurses at CHOC who are responsible for our Isabella turning 12 that day ― just like they had a hand in her turning 11 the year before, and 10 before that, and… you get the idea.
As a toddler, Isabella was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney cancer. Today she’s cancer-free. But it wasn’t an easy road in between. For two seemingly unending years, her childhood was spent at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange. There were many exams, all kinds of tests, several surgeries, and then some more exams. Even after leaving her hospital room for the last time and finally going back home, there were follow-up visits to CHOC multiple times a week for another year and a half. Throughout it all, it was those fantastic doctors and nurses at CHOC that kept Isabella going, figuratively and literally.
We knew even in the midst of her treatment that this was a
unique, life-changing event for our family. I have so much respect for the staff at CHOC who
does amazing work every single day for hundreds of children and their families.
I wanted to give back to CHOC to say thank you for everything they did for my niece. I joined Moustaches for Kids OC (M4KOC), a national community of mustache growers who make up local chapters and raise money for a children’s charity in their area. For 30 days, the chapter’s growers work tirelessly to grow and display mustaches. When asked, “What’s with the stache?” it’s an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for a worthy cause.
This is not just another fundraising effort for me. It’s very personal. My family owes CHOC more than we could ever pay back. When Isabella gives the camera the inevitable eye roll that most 12-year old girls would on their birthday, we know who to thank.