Nationwide volunteers are lacing up their sneakers for Saturday’s Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer hosted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Each year, volunteers show their support for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month through fundraisers and participating in a 5K walk or run. Among the participants are family members of children who have cancer and are receiving treatment at St. Jude.
For Belen Rojas of Pembroke Pines, volunteering is her way of giving back to St. Jude for diligently treating her son, Sebastian Suescun, now 7.
“We arrived at St. Jude on June 14, 2014 after my son’s surgery for brain cancer,” Rojas said.
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“He needed treatment so that the tumor wouldn’t come back.”
At 6-years-old, Sebastian was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a fast-growing brain tumor that can develop from immature cells during early stages of development. He had surgery to remove the tumor on May 23, 2014, at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
“The surgery helped ease some of his headaches that pressure from the tumor caused,” Rojas said.
Two weeks after surgery, pediatric oncologist Brian Cauff suggested that Sebastian attend St. Jude for additional treatment. It began with four rounds of intravenous chemotherapy — chemo inserted through the veins — followed by six weeks of radiation, which he finished in December 2014.
“He tells me, ‘Mom, God told me everything will be fine,’” Rojas said.
Sebastian is currently taking oral chemotherapy at home and he will finish in December. After that, he will return every three months for check-ups at St. Jude.
For now, Sebastian is in Orlando enjoying his birthday celebration at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot parks.
He turns 8 on Sept. 23.
“I am happy that I am almost finished [with oral chemotherapy],” Sebastian said. “I have had to do it every month and it feels amazing to almost be finished.”
Sebastian’s family has never received a bill for his treatment at St. Jude.
Participating in the Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer gives Rojas the platform to share her and Sebastian’s story with others.
“Financially, they gave us everything and the St. Jude Walk/Run helps me spread the word,” said Rojas.
Sebastian plans to be a professional soccer player, but for now he’s settled for keeping the streets of Gotham City safe with his favorite superhero, Batman.
If you go
▪ Who: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
▪ What: St. Jude’s annual Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer
▪ When: Saturday at 6 a.m. for registration; 8 a.m. walk/run begins
▪ Where: Zoo Miami, 12400 SW 152 St., in Miami
Registration is $10 for adults and children ages 6 and up. Participants who raise $100 will receive an official event T-shirt. Those who raise $250 will become new members of the Fearless Fundraiser Club and earn St. Jude gear. To register or for more information, visit www.stjude.org/walkrun.