Braden Hofen, is 6 years old and battling relapsing, Stage 4, neuroblastoma. It's an extremely rare childhood cancer that affects one in 10 million children. There is no known cure. Braden was diagnosed in December 2007 and was given a 30% chance for survival. He has endured 6 high dose rounds of chemotherapy, an autologous bone marrow transplant, radiation therapy, and follow up therapies. Braden was declared to be in remission in May 2009, but merely a few months later, his cancer relapsed. He currently has less than a 10% chance of survival and is undergoing experimental treatments at Children's Mercy Hospital in KC and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It is truly AMAZING that this little guy is still with us!
Unbelievably, Braden's mom, Deliece, recently found out that she, too, is now battling Stage 2 breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy the end of March where they found cancer in her lymph nodes. She had another surgery to remove those nodes the end of April - and began chemo herself 3 weeks ago. Yes, mom AND son are BOTH going through chemo right now. Whereas a breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy would be DEVASTATING to most, to Deliece it's sheerly a 'nuiscance' - as it's taking some precious time away that she could be spending with her son.
As unbelievable as this is - this family has already faced tragedy even before mom and son both got diagnosed with cancer. Deliece's mom died of brain cancer when she was 18. Deliece was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago as well. Deliece and her husband also lost a baby girl 8 years ago just 12 hours after she was born. This followed two miscarriages. Also, when Braden was just 4 months old himself, he had respiratory failure from asthma complications and they almost lost him then. Yes, this family has just had one horrible thing after another.
Through it all Deliece has handled all of this unbelievable tragedy with style, grace and AMAZING strength. Instead of being depressed and sad - she appreciates and enjoys EVERY moment (she calls them 'detours') of life with her family. Example: When she decided it was time to shave her head. Although it made her sad, she decided to have FUN with it and photographed it coming off in stages. She did 'mowhawks' with the boys to make it fun and even did a "Mrs. Kojak" shot of herself - lollipop and all! She posted these on Facebook - as she is letting us all walk through this journey with her and her family. She is an inspiration to EVERYONE she meets. Once people hear about this family - they simply can't turn back. We've watched this happen for 2 1/2 years in our own 'circle' of a few hundred people - now it's spreading around the country to THOUSANDS.
What Deliece has been MOST convicted about since Braden's diagnosis is the fact that so LITTLE awareness is given to childhood cancer. She has made constant comparisons to how much we hear about breast cancer - even before she was diagnosed. Now that she actually has that disease herself, she's experiencing firsthand EXACTLY what she's been so vocal about! She learned more on her first, one-hour doctor's appointment about her breast cancer - than she has in 2 1/2 years about Braden's cancer! She's very thankful for all the research and treatment options available to her, as it will more than likely save her life. However, it is now her mission to 'shine a light' on childhood cancer in the same way - so that our children have the same kind of awareness, research and treatment options that breast cancer patients do!