Dylan Probe isn’t letting cancer slow her down. She competed as a triathlete, finishing three races before her 10th birthday, until doctors found a tumor in her left foot last year. They diagnosed Dylan with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer which affects 200 children in the US annually.
Dylan’s cancer did not spread, but she lost one leg to amputation, and endured chemotherapy harsh enough to keep her home from school due to a weakened immune system. “If you want a fever, go to school,” Dylan explained.
Although cancer has limited Dylan’s mobility, it has not conquered her indomitable spirit. “Her very first night in the hospital,” said Megan Probe, Dylan’s mom, “we sat down and we had a conversation. [Dylan] said, ‘You know what, Mommy? Cancer’s not going to win no matter what.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She goes, ‘Well either I’ll be cured or I’ll go to heaven. Either way, I win.'”
Photographer Sherina Welch recently completed a childhood cancer photo project titled “More than Four,” which features Dylan’s story. When Welch initially heard about Dylan, she decided to send her a surprise gift: an American Girl doll with a prosthetic left leg like Dylan’s artificial limb. “I love it!” Dylan exclaimed after Welch delivered the doll.
Though Dylan welcomed the gift, she isn’t asking people for anything special. “You don’t have to know me,” she explained. “You don’t have to have anything to do with me. You just have to believe.”
Norma Cook has lived across the hall from actor Chris Salvatore for years and recently received an interesting invitation. Cook, 89, has leukemia and spent two months late last year in the hospital due to pneumonia. Cook could not be released from the hospital without 24 hour care, which was not covered through her insurance. That was when Chris Salvatore asked to help her.
Salvatore set up a GoFundMe page last Thanksgiving that raised over $50,000. Salvatore then used the money to see what kind of caretaking services would benefit Cook the most. To cut costs, Salvatore asked Cook if she would like to move into his apartment. Cook, who has no children or close family in California, said yes. Salvatore also took in Cook’s cat, Hermes.
“She couldn’t be happier that I asked,” Salvatore said. “I was over there visiting most days anyway. The only other option was for her to go into a facility. I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother. She called me the grandson she never had.”
Though neither of them could have predicted what would happen when they first met five years ago, the arrangement is working well.
“He cooks for me. If he can’t make it as an actor, he can make it as a chef,” Cook joked. “We always watch the news,” she continued. “We mostly talk and drink Champagne and eat peanuts.”
Salvatore created the hashtag #myneighbornorma and often shares pictures and videos of them together on social media.
“The nurses and doctors told her that it would be a miracle if she lived past the holidays, so the fact that she’s still thriving is just a really great thing,” said Salvatore.
Cook is grateful to be able to spend her last days with Salvatore. “He’s a really wonderful guy,” she said.
“Moving her in…it feels as though it was meant to be all along. She has strong opinions about where she wants to carry out the rest of her days and she wants to stay here,” said Salvatore. “It’s really fulfilling to be there for her.”
Last November, Becca Schofield of Riverview, New Brunswick, was informed that the brain cancer she’d been fighting for two years was terminal. Becca decided to make and execute a bucket list with the help of her friends and family. Doctors say she has anywhere from three months to a year to live.
With all the overwhelming support for her bucket list, the 17-year-old thought of a new idea. Becca and her dad, Darren Schofield, created the hashtag #Beccatoldmeto to encourage people to help others and, in a roundabout way, to help Becca, too.
“Everyone wants to help…and a lot of my bucket list is I want to revisit places I’ve been, eat my favorite foods, watch my parents’ favorite movies with them,” said Becca. “It’s not stuff people can help with. This is something other people can do and feel like they’re doing stuff for me. I love that it’s not just for the recipient and not just for the person who’s giving. It’s also for me.”
Becca took to social media in December to tell friends and family about the hashtag. It was originally meant to celebrate her last day of radiation on Dec. 16. But now the hashtag has grown into something more and Becca receives notifications every day from people around the world.
“Every morning I wake up and I’m delighted that it’s still happening,” she said. “I feel like a kid on Christmas morning every single day….Every day is a gift to know that it’s happening.”
Becca’s parents consider the hashtag’s success a gift as well.
“It makes more than three people feel good because me and my husband watch Becca’s face and see the smile on her face,” Anne Schofield, Becca’s mother, said. “In the evening she’ll sit and look on her iPad and see what people have posted.”
Becca’s parents once remarked to Becca how surprised they were that her acts of kindness hashtag spread so quickly.
“You just don’t dream big enough,” was their daughter’s reply.
Cancerous growth may be sudden and hard to predict, but there’s a new program that might help track its development.
The PiCnIc mapping program was made to help doctors respond quickly and proactively to cancerous cells. NYU professor and head of the program’s development, Bud Mishra, described PiCnIc, saying that it “takes in patient data, guesses potential scenarios and tells you the most likely scenario.”
The program focuses on the cancer to predict developments one stage at a time at the smallest possible scale. Mishra calls these “little blocks of causality.” PiCnIc examines all of these and keeps only the most likely scenarios in order to construct a graphical representation of the likely possible outcomes of a patient’s cancer. From this information, doctors can plan how to best combat the cancer.
According to Nicholas Navin, University of Texas professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, “[PiCnIc] can incorporate pretty much any cancer type.” So it can map mostly all cancers as long as the data is in place.
Computational biologist at the University of Edinburgh, Giulio Caravagna—also involved in the project—adds that PiCnIc can also update the maps to accommodate advances in cancer research.
The research work was published in June on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but for now, Navin says that the program “shouldn’t be interpreted too much in making decisions for individual patient.”
There is still a bit more development and fine-tuning to go, but Navin says that PiCnIc is already “clinically useful” at its current stage.
Kinsey Price, of Vancouver, Washington, has a crocheted a zoo of all sorts of animals including seals, tarantulas, beavers, and newts, to name a few. She has spent eight months making all of these animals and intends to donate them to children in the cancer units of the Providence Cancer Center.
“Each day that comes and goes through their treatment, the kids need to know that somebody remembers them,” she said. “Not just the family but somebody out there made something special for them.”
Price has taken suggestions for what to crochet next from neighbors and friends. Price’s first creation was a dinosaur for her grandson.
“He said grandma, how come you can’t crochet a friend for my dinosaur. And I said well I’ll try,” she said. Price had crocheted and donated blankets, hats, and scarves for years but this was her first attempt at something more complex. Price bought pattern books, yarn, and polyester stuffing for the animals and began working.
“I’m hoping this will give them [the kids] the smiles that they need,” Price said. She plans to continue crocheting for children and other hospital patients. She and a friend, Sherry Kleven, are taking yarn and other donations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org