Leianna is an almost-two-year-old baby who loves the world, daydreaming, and playing with her parents. Her family likes to call her “warrior princess” because she is a little girl with amazing strength, joy, and happiness who knows no limits.

Leianna spent many of her days in her native state Hawaii, enjoying the wonderful sun and the day-by-day occurrences of her siblings.

One day, her parents noticed that Leianna’s tummy was swollen. Thinking it was a simple affliction, they set up a telemedicine appointment. During the interview, Leianna’s doctor told them that her tummy needed to be analyzed and advised them to visit the Kapiolani ER that same day.

After some tests that included ultrasounds, MRI biopsies, and blood tests, one of their biggest fears came to pass. The specialists confirmed that Leianna was suffering from an aggressive stage IV Neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer. Her parents, Kalei, and Tony were devastated, and the family started to fight along with their baby, in perhaps the most important battle of her life.

Warrior Princess

From that moment on, part of Leianna’s treatment now includes exhausting chemotherapies (around 7 cycles of 5 days each), bone marrow harvesting, transplantation, and even radiation sessions. A taxing process that will take about 3 and ½ years.

Despite everything, Leianna has always kept the happiness and the innocence that radiates the purest forms of love. She continues this battle with the best attitude thanks to her family and the support of all who witness her daily challenges.

Books Bring Smiles

Friends of Rick Daniels spotted her case and sent her a package with the book ‘Noah and Saby’s Magical Storybook Adventure’, so she can give away dozens of smiles to her family and friends and to show her that despite all the difficult treatment sessions, diet, and time she must spend in bed there is still a way to find joy thanks to our imagination.

Recently, Prince – a super cute 8-weeks-old English bulldog – arrived at Leianna’s life. Leianna’s happiness went to the moon. Prince has been recently signed up for puppy training and later he will complete an advanced course with the Hawaii Dog Training Services.

Childhood, Imagination, and Books

 

A child’s development needs not only time and economic support, but also love. Lots of love. What happens during the first years of someone’s life will determine their behavior and how the new adult will face life. A great way to do this is by teaching lessons about how the toughest times in life can be navigated through imagination and love.

A book, for example, can bring that kind of teaching in an effective, playful, and entertaining way. Fueled by their imagination, children interact with everything they come in contact with, and this is only another reason why it is important to bring them closer to educative and functional material. Books are a great resource of knowledge at all ages and can include a myriad of different content and therefore lessons to apply under the harshest conditions.

Remember to always have a book close to you. Something that can take you somewhere else, where you can navigate forever over a sea of words and pictures. Just as Warrior Princess Leianna who together with her family sails every day towards the next sunset.

 

by Carlos Eduardo Guillen

 

On October 10, 2020, the Cox family discovered that her beloved daughter Za’Miya was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, also known as DIPG, and their life changed forever. DIPG is a type of tumor that starts in the brain stem and progressively affects the nerves and muscles that allow us to see, hear, walk, talk, and even eat.

However, since day one, Za’Miya’s mother showed strength and love towards her daughter fighting against this terrible disease and supporting her every step. Due to the aggressiveness of the disease Za’Miya’s doctor told her family she only had from 6 months to 2 years to live. Her family and her strong faith helped them to survive these tough times.

In this, it is important to highlight that DIPG has a survival rate of less than 1%. This disease can also affect older teens and adults, but it is more common among children. The treatment includes palliative radiation, and the therapy remains almost the same since the 70s.

Unfortunately, on May 17th Za’Miya left us after a 10-month battle against cancer. As her mother mentioned in Za’Miya’s Instagram account, her daughter will be forever 10 years old. Her love and brightness will always be remembered and cherished by those who knew about her and her fight.

Faith and Love

Herein, Cancer is a complex disease that impacts every single member of a family group. However, it is important to have in mind that all the efforts and sacrifices must be aimed to ease the patient’s symptoms, so each treatment session also produces union and strength among relatives and not fear and anxiety.

Also, it is important to highlight that DIPG, like several other types of cancer, affects not only the body and mind of the patient but also their behavior, and as consequence, their interactions with the world. Therefore, parents need to deliver positive messages that stimulate their kids’ imagination and that safeguard their mental health.

Among the resources, we can mention books and music, as well as online programs, that aim to alleviate the children’s feelings and conflicted emotions by allowing them to interact with different scenarios where they become the main character of a story.

In summary, cancer is still a complex and emotionally taxing disease in which patients require all our love and constant dedication. Za’Miya’s mom taught us this incessantly, during those 10 months of treatment in which she lived what her little one did every day.

It is in these circumstances where we can see how love transcends life marking certain experiences as unique and perennial, a model in which to find inspiration to keep helping the most in need.

Finally, from Friends of Rick Daniels, we want to send a message to Za’Miya’s family from our platform. A thank you for teaching us strength and how the constant act of giving can restore our faith for the future; but also, a thank you to Za’Miya herself, for giving us that amazing joy for living and an irreplaceable smile.

 

Eduardo Guillen

The story of Blake Payne is one full of love, hope, and courage. A life that ended far too soon, but that has taught us the meaning of real strength.

Blake Payne was the son of CNN correspondent Rene Marsh. Blake was a joyful two-year-old who passed on April 14 after battling pediatric brain cancer. In the words of his mother, Blake has taught her what is truly important and showed her how much strength she had stored in her heart.

A month before, Blake was reaching his second birthday together with Rene Marsh and her husband, Kedric Payne.

Motherly Love

During this time, Rene grew more than she could have ever imagined. The meaning each day had with Blake was full of lessons of love and compassion. A communion that is only reserved for those strong enough to fight against such a difficult disease.

Rene took this battle against cancer as a mission for the rest of her life. She has decided to do so as her tribute to Blake. Marsh also mentioned that she received news from doctors explaining that Blake’s cancer was in remission, but last November, it returned and spread.

It is important to highlight the fact that Rene, like many other mothers, had to emotionally experience her child’s illness too, so he could go through the treatment and care that cancer demands. During those days, it is common for many parents to feel lost and confused. However, they know they are the light that needs to guide their children to safety, to normality. Beyond treatments and medicines that we all hope to make cancer disappear, there are also tons of love that are poured out by these parents.

It is important to highlight the fact that Rene, like many other mothers, had to emotionally experience her child’s illness too, so he could go through the treatment and care that cancer demands. 

Feelings and Imagination

Among these times, there are moments in which children might feel excluded as a result of trying to understand the reason behind the separation from their daily activities and interactions. It is in these moments that parents need to assist their children and teach them ways on how to manage anxiety, fear, guilt, depression, and anger.

These reactions change according to the age and condition of the child, and it gets more complex as they get older. There are, of course, psychological resources the parents can use, however, it is important these feelings be addressed, or they can evolve into disorders and depression. As Nancy Keene, Wendy Hobbie, and Kathy Ruccione describe in their book Childhood Cancer Survivors, “Suffering is diminished when it is shared.”

One way of sharing these episodes and limitations caused by the illness is by revealing hopes and fears. In this field, we have access to several resources, and one of the most important is that of books. Books help children to release their imagination and escape from their physical limitations, taking them to different realities and situations.

It is in this reading dimension that we can explore new stories and be one with the characters, as well as their life and challenges.

Books to Face Difficulties and Seek Hope

These expressions are fundamental for children and their families. Parents need to not only be ready to assist their children with their doubts but also live with them in their challenges and expectations.

That is why it is not surprising that among Blake’s favorite activities, we can find books. The use of colors and joyful acts shone a new light over a landscape that perhaps, due to his illness, was turning grey in some aspects. Books, together with music, another great equalizer of experience, help parents and children get together in creating a stronger bond.    

It is in this scenario that Blake and Rene’s relationship teaches us how to approach this situation with bravery, by sharing and living every day at its fullest, with their minds aimed to comfort each other; showing to the world that love transcends and triumphs over every act and experience, even cancer.

 

By Eduardo Guillen

 

 

The fight against cancer continues, and recent discoveries get us closer to find a final cure for this challenging disease. Among these, we can name two current studies that shed light on approaching cancer and its reaction to specific protein synthesis.

The first study includes The Cardiff University, located in Wales, which discovered a method to eliminate cancer cells using our immune system. This work in progress recognizes and eliminates most cancer types through a class I-related protein (MR1) while leaving other healthy cells intact.

T cell

The use of T-cells to combat cancer has a long story. One of these uses is the medicine called CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor).

In other words, scientists claimed that a T-cell, a white blood cell that protects our body from external agents (antigens), can also be used to eliminate cancer cells by attacking tumors, which means there is a possibility that a T-cell might eliminate a wide range of cancers, something believed to be unfeasible.

The still ongoing study has shown that this T-cell interacting with the MR1 molecule, which is located all over the human body, and cancers are not the exception, could spot the affected cell and destroy it.

Heading

A Hopeful History Combating Cancer

 

The use of T-cells to combat cancer has a long story. For example, a medicine called CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor), which uses the patient’s T-cells, is designed to send an immune response against cells that show a particular antigen. Nevertheless, this treatment is reserved as a single dose, and it could also carry secondary symptoms which is why it requires an extensive follow-up.

Regardless of its risks, CAR-T has shown positive results being able to produce a complete remission. However, this treatment can only be used for blood cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and advanced lymphomas.

In the investigation conducted by Cardiff University, T-cells can also eliminate solid tumors, which will reveal a general treatment to eliminate all types of cancer.

The discovery is, without a doubt, revealing because through this ‘key’ the lymphocyte flags the malignant unit and proceeds to combat it.

There is still work to do to find a solution to solid tumors (sarcomas and carcinomas), such as the ones that occur in bones, muscles, and organs.

In the investigation conducted by Cardiff University, T-cells can also eliminate solid tumors, which will reveal a general treatment to eliminate all types of cancer.

Another type of therapy used to combat cancer is TIL (Tumor-infiltrating Lymphocytes). These T-cells are located inside the tumor. Once these have been collected, an examination is performed to find which cells recognize the tumor faster. These units are then enriched to increase their number, rapidly destroying the tumor and blocking its signals to the immune system

 Furthermore, this is also important to highlight that T-cell therapy has side effects. The occurrence and number of side effects are still unclear. A negative result can include an excessive release of cytokine, which triggers fever, nausea, headaches, and blood pressure changes. In more complex cases, a TIL therapy can cause leak syndrome, which may lead to multiple organ failure and shock. 

How Does it Work?

 

As described above, in the discovery, the T-cell interacts with a molecule called MR-1 located in every single cell of the human body, including cancer cells. The discovery is, without a doubt, revealing because through this ‘key’ the lymphocyte flags the malignant unit and proceeds to combat it.

The projected therapy for this new treatment begins with collecting the T-cells. Then these cells are genetically modified by using an RNA chain inserted with a harmless virus. At this point, the cell is ready to recognize cancer cells.

The T-cell locates the cancer cell and attacks it.

The projected therapy for this new treatment begins with collecting the T-cells. Then these cells are genetically modified by using an RNA chain inserted with a harmless virus. At this point, the cell is ready to recognize cancer cells.

Next, the modified cells are duplicated in a laboratory. The modified cells are injected back into the patient. The new treatment with the MR-1 molecule has been used only in animals, and there is still a long road ahead of testing before human trials.  

These results are also fascinating because the T-cell has eliminated the cancer cells leaving the rest of the healthy tissue unaffected.

 

New Alternatives to Combat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

 

The second discovery to fight cancer involves a potential solution among the most common cancers that affect children called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Recently, a team of researchers made discoveries that could improve this disease treatment and open a way to create new therapies.

 

This proliferation of white blood cells contains a genetic problem that includes the protein MEF2D and four other factors that control gene activity. This activity involves their interaction and why the factors are triggered.

On this subject, it is essential to highlight that acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) generates recurrent chromosomal rearrangements that result in chimeric fusion proteins that eventually drive to tumor formation.

This study involves Aichi Medical University, Nagoya University, and the National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center.

The solution contemplates the dynamics of how proteins work and their behavior. In this case, acute lymphoblastic leukemia involves the abnormal propagation of lymphocytes (white blood cells).

  • Enlarged lymph, liver, or spleen nodes
  • Pain below the rib cage
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight
  • Pale skin
  • Other symptoms

 

The investigation focuses on blocking these signals (as if we were talking about a communication process) from the proteins, thereby stopping the white cells from proliferating. The result also means that once the investigations are conclusive, it will be possible to create a therapy that produces the same result.

 

Article by: Eduardo Guillen