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Beating the odds: Christian’s victory over rare childhood cancer

“Christian is the first person with his type of cancer to have no sign of disease and to be living, which is just huge,” Tegan, Christian’s mama bear, shared. 

Christian Herrera was diagnosed with an Extrarenal Malignant Rhabdoid Tumor at age 6, in December of 2022. When Christian was initially diagnosed, he was given one to two months to live.

“The earth fell out from beneath us.” 

“We knew that something was wrong. Obviously cancer was not at all the response we anticipated to receive,” Christian’s mama and papa bears, Tegan and Jose, shared. “When we arrived at CHKD, his mom and I were sitting there and they told us that it was a tumor and the earth fell out from beneath us.” 

“He is the 25th known case of his type of cancer. The treatment for this rare type of cancer has limited resources so everything we were receiving from oncologists and specialists were just educated guesses.”

When Christian went in for his first surgery, his medical team told his parents they were not expecting to be able to completely remove the tumor and that Christian’s diagnosis was still terminal—the surgery was to buy him more time. However, after Christian’s 14-hour surgery, the tumor was completely gone. His was the first successful surgery of its kind.

Finding a new normal

The new normal after Christian and his family were able to come home from the hospital included becoming accustomed to his physical limitations following a lengthy and intense hospital stay, learning to recognize and begin to find healing from the emotional turmoil Christian and his family experienced during such a sudden diagnosis and treatment process, and accepting that they would have an ongoing journey of tests, scans and surgeries for the foreseeable future. 

The Herrera family shared that some things people outside of the pediatric cancer world may not know, is how everything else in a family’s life continues to happen even though they are suddenly fighting pediatric cancer. For example, Christian has four other siblings who all still need to be cared for even though he and his mama and papa bears were in the hospital. 

“Everything in a home still continues to go, and we still had other kids to take care of, we still had bills, we still had house chores, and we still had to think about taking care of ourselves which seemed impossible,” Tegan shared. 

Meeting Roc Solid

Christian’s family received their Roc Solid Ready Bag when they were first diagnosed with pediatric cancer. “Kelly Trejo, Christian’s social worker at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, made the connection between us and Roc Solid. She brought in the Ready Bag and she was so amazing at delivering the information about Roc Solid and submitting our application for a playset,” Jose shared. Christian’s parents recall how helpful the practical items in the Ready Bag were for their family once they realized they would not be leaving the hospital that day. “There was fun involved with the bag,” Jose shared. 

Christian’s family found out they were receiving a Roc Solid playset right around the time they were being released from the hospital. “It was such a fun gift for getting to come home from the hospital and it gave him a place to get his energy out without us being worried about being immunocompromised,” Tegan shared. 

“It was a little dreary first thing in the morning that day but then the sky opened up and it was a beautiful blue sky. I didn’t expect to have quite the turnout that we did!” Jose recalls about their Roc Solid playset build day. 

Play Defeats Cancer

Dozens of volunteers from Roc Solid and TowneBank arrived that morning full of energy to build Christian’s playset. The team showed Christian how to use the drills so he could help. In just a few hours, the team revealed the playset to the Herrera family in an unforgettable moment of excited squeals and cheers. 

Christian is officially considered to have no evidence of disease. With the type of cancer that he had, he will never be considered in remission due to the aggressive nature of his cancer. He will continue to receive full-body scans every month for the foreseeable future to make sure there is still no evidence of disease. 

Christian is eight years old, he loves to draw, his favorite super hero is Spider-Man, and he wants to make YouTube videos as he gets older. 

Watch Christian’s full story on YouTube here

Become a part of the story for a family like Christian’s by becoming a  recurring donor here. Help us say “yes!” to building playsets and providing Ready Bags for more families.  

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