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Rob Charlebois' son Zach started Kindergarten this fall. It's a dream come true for Rob because he thought his son might not live long enough to attend school.
When Zach was seven months old he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. He went toMemorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for treatment. Because he was so young the doctors predicted the cancer would go away, and initially that proved true. Each visit showed the tumors were shrinking, and Zach was declared cancer free one year after his diagnosis.
But months later, Zach complained of pain and would wake at night screaming in agony. An MRI showed the cancer was back and in his bone marrow. Zach was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma and given a 50% chance to live.
Fighting for his life he began chemotherapy, which was effective at killing cancer cells but did tremendous damage to his healthy cells. “After a round of chemo, Zach’s blood counts would plummet and he would become very sick. He needed red blood cells and platelets almost daily,” said Rob.
Rob remembers one scary experience when his son needed platelets, “I took Zach to a hockey game after a round of chemotherapy. During the game I looked at him and he was covered in blood, it was coming from his nose, and wouldn’t stop bleeding. I scooped him up and ran down six flights of stairs. I had a police officer wave down a taxi to rush us to the ER. The doctors quickly infused platelets and the bleeding stopped.”
At his worst Zach had six brain tumors, and was treated with rounds of very strong chemotherapy, surgery and other innovative medicine. Today Zach has been cancer free for more than two years. He gets quarterly scans at Strong Hospital in Rochester. “I had never donated blood prior to Zach getting cancer. I quickly learned the need for donated blood as I watched Zach and many other children fight the horrible affects of cancer and chemotherapy. I have made an effort to donate as frequently as I can. I hope I can help people who need blood, as others have helped my son,” said Rob.
—Rob Charlebois - Hilton, NY
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