NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Every year, an estimated 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer across the country.
In Hampton Roads, a new child walks through the doors at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters cancer center each week ready for treatment.
These kids are fighting for their lives at a hospital that’s doing its best with new programs to keep the ‘child’ in their childhood.
One of those children is four-year-old Cody O’Leary. He is battling cancer at CHKD.
10 On Your Side visited O’Leary one year ago in the hospital at CHKD as he waited for his cancer treatment for his rhabdomyosarcoma. The tumor was in his common bile duct, and blocked mostly everything from his liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
At the time, Cody had five rounds of chemo left.
Fast forward to June of 2018 and Cody is finished with chemotherapy and his tumor is still shrinking. His father says he goes to the hospital about once every six months.
Cody was one of the children battling cancer who is wise beyond his years, and constantly smiles through the pain.
“From his last year’s scans, because we just did our yearly scans, a year off treatments, it’s still continuing to shrink. So, this kid is a cancer crusher,” said Cody’s dad Brandon Nardoianni. “These kids have been through so much. I couldn’t be more proud, it’s just to be a part of his life and to witness his strength, allowed me to really see what it means to defeat all odds and smile through it.”
Cody’s friend Jameson was also in the hospital one year ago. At the time, his mother Amber Campbell said he loves to visit CHKD because he gets to play.
“You would never know these are kids, they have their IV poles and they are running around. They are kids. They want to play,” said Campbell. “The support you find here [at CHKD] will make the darkest days — you can see the light.”
Now, months later, Jameson is in remission and Campbell says her son is back to his normal personality.
“He lost all of his hair…he had a nose tube to help with medications, and he had lost so much weight – he was so skinny. Now he’s back to being in the 90th percentile; he’s normal weight, his hair grew back, and he’s just back to being himself,” Campbell said. “The cancer cannot destroy your hope, at all.”
Jameson loves to play with his buddies as they laugh together and fight cancer together. It is something that Mia Calnan, 10, knows well.
“It’s really hard to fight,” said Calnan in April of 2018 while sitting in the hospital bed at CHKD.
She brought everyone in the room to tears as she told us she had relapsed. Calnan received a bone marrow transplant and then spent 100 days in isolation prior to being discharged.
She received cord blood stem cells from a new baby born back in 2007 — one year before Calnan was born.
In that interview Calnan said, “My mom is my best of friend, she’s my support. I love her so much.”
10 On Your Side visited Calnan at her home in June and the little girl we saw was healthy, happy and medication-free.
“I can meet new friends, I can go on a bus, I can go to school now. I can do everything,” said Calnan.
For these children, their bond is cancer.
Their bond is cancer, but more than that, it’s their resilience to fight it. These children are proving there is hope after diagnosis.