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A Success Story - Christopher Wilson

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Chris Wilson 

Chris is a freshman at New River Community and Technical College in Beckley, West Virginia, majoring in Computer Science.  His experience with cancer has not changed his career goals, and has shown him the importance of church.  He has survived Wilm's Tumor and the removal of his right kidney. In his own words:

ďI am 17-years-old and had always been perfectly healthy until about the end of March, 2007. My little brother always caught the stomach viruses, colds, strep throats, and just about anything that was going around at school, but I didnít.  However, on March 26th, that all changed.  I started out by having blood in my urine. I called my mom and told her about it and that I was 'freaking out.'  She said to calm down that it was probably a kidney infection or kidney stone.  She made me a doctorís appointment the next day at my pediatricianís office.  After they took a urine sample from me, the pediatricianís nurse just knew I had kidney stones but the pediatrician didnít think so. They tested my blood and urine for infection but nothing showed up so the next day, they sent me for an ultrasound.  The ultrasound did not show kidney stones but a mass in my kidney.  They then sent me for a CT scan which confirmed the ultrasound results.  My parents and I were in shock and very scared and disappointed.  My pediatrician then referred me to an urologist in Charleston.  I saw the urologist on Friday, March 30th.  He told us that the mass was a tumor but he wasnít sure what kind.  It could be benign, malignant, or there was about a 4% chance that it was a Wilm's tumor. He explained that Wilm's tumors usually only occur in children ages 3-5 years old.  He said he was going to have to remove my right kidney because the tumor was 4.5 cm, which was more than one-third of my kidney. My parents wanted a second opinion just to be sure, so they had a friend of the family who was a radiologist read the CT scan and MRI. He agreed with the urologist, so the surgery was scheduled for Friday, April 6th. 

I came through the surgery OK, and I asked my parents when I woke up if it was cancer.  My dad told me they werenít sure yet.  The next morning, the oncologist came in and explained to me that it was a Wilm's tumor, but that it had a greater than 90% chance of being cured and that if you had to have cancer, it was the best kind to have.  She said they would be doing a bone scan and a CT scan on my chest on Monday to make sure it hadnít spread.  During the surgery, the urologist also biopsied my lymph nodes but luckily, they were clear.  The CT scan of my chest showed four Wilm's tumors in one lung and one in the other.  The oncologist said that it was still highly curable and that I still had a greater than 80% of being cured, but I would have to go through about seven months of chemo.  I was very disappointed, but she was encouraging that we could beat this.

The oncologist also explained to me that chemo could make me sterile, so she gave me some information on sperm banking.  My mom called to order a sperm bank kit, but they told her it would be better if we could do a live specimen in Fairfax, VA.  My great uncle lives 20 minutes from Fairfax, so we arranged to stay with him.  I was released from the hospital on Tuesday, April 10 and traveled to Fairfax on Wednesday, April 11 for an appointment at the sperm bank on Thursday, April 12.  I was to begin my chemotherapy on Friday, April 13 at Women and Childrenís Hospital in Charleston, WV, and I wanted to give a specimen before I started the treatment. I also prepared an off-site specimen on Monday, April 16th and had FedEx pick it up. I never thought I would have to deal with a sperm bank, but I was glad that I had that option because I would like to have children some day. My momís insurance said they wouldnít cover the sperm banking, so she said she was going to have some expensive grandchildren.

I took my first chemo treatment on Friday, April 13th. It made me very tired, weak, and nauseous for a few days.  I only ate about three bites on Saturday, April 14th.  I ate a little more on Sunday and Monday, but I still donít have my normal appetite back.  I went to school on Monday, April 16th to meet with my guidance counselor and get my make-up work as my urologist didnít want me to return to the classroom until at least April 23rd. I also had to leave school early once a week to go for my chemotherapy.  There were some days that I donít feel like going because of the chemo. My guidance counselor met with my teachers, and they were very helpful and understanding.  My engineering teacher said not to worry about anything and my grade would be taken care of.  My art teacher gave me two chapters of bookwork to work on at home since I wonít be able to work on class projects. My English teacher said she would give me some bookwork when I returned to school, but she was going to waive my senior project which is normally required for all seniors to graduate. 

I plan on attending New River Community Technical College in Beckley, WV, in the fall to study some type of engineering, probably either computer software or aerospace.  I might transfer to West Virginia University after two years.  Iím also considering becoming an architect.  I would also like to get married and have about two children.

I have been a Boy Scout for the last 6 Ĺ years. I was preparing to work on my Eagle Scout project when I was hit with all of this. This project normally needs to be completed by age 18. My scout master is working on getting me a waiver so that I can complete my project as I feel like it after my 6-week recovery period from the surgery. I have completed several community service hours with the Boy Scouts.  I also went on a mission trip with my churchís youth group last July to Brunswick, Georgia for a week. We worked on putting roofs on homes for missionaries to stay at a childrenís home there. I was also inducted into the National Honor Society at school on April 24th. I have also taken classes at Theater West Virginia and been a member of the youth troupe there for the last 4 years.  At school, I have been a member of RAZE, Young Democrats, and the Independence Cross Club.

Cancer has changed my outlook on life by making me try to eat and drink more healthy to keep my last kidney from failing.  I am not drinking much soda and I have cut back on sugar.  My cancer experience has not changed my career goals as I still plan to attend college and major in engineering.  It has impacted my life values because my mom raised me in church, but I had kind of slipped away over the last few months, and I wondered why I needed to go to church in order to be a good person.  My church has been very good to my family through this experience.  My preacher and several people from our church came to see me in the hospital.  My youth group came to see me at my house and brought me a basket of goodies.  Our church deacons, my momís mission circle, and several people in the church have sent us gifts and donations of money.  I now realize the importance of attending church and I plan on going back as soon as I feel like it.

I am very grateful to Cancer Survivors' Fund for this scholarship to help reach my educational goals.  I will try very hard to maintain the 3.25 GPA and will do the volunteer work each semester by helping my church, Boy Scouts, and community."

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