It is never easy to receive a cancer diagnosis. It’s even harder to endure prolonged periods of intensive treatment. But for a child? The side effects of chemotherapy can be an added blow to a T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis that can already feel scary and overwhelming.
You’d never know it by the toothy grin on the face of 13-year-old Lee Sullivan, whose family turned to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for treatment. Adjacent to HealthPark Hospital in Fort Myers, Golisano Children’s Hospital provides local children like Lee with convenient access to exceptional oncology and pediatric services.
In August, Lee’s tumultuous battle with cancer took a dangerous turn when an infection caused sepsis. This condition occurs when chemicals in the bloodstream cause inflammation within the body. Sepsis can lead to multiple organ system failure, and in some cases, death. But as Lee loves to say, “It’s not about how far you have to go – it’s about how far you have come.”
The following weeks stretched out slowly as Lee spent his 13th birthday on life support, bravely fighting to continue his journey toward remission with the reassuring support of the Golisano care team. After three weeks of giving his all, Lee slowly and steadily recovered.
For his family, the excellent care delivered by the fast-responding team at Golisano Children’s Hospital made all the difference. “We credit the staff at Golisano Children’s Hospital for their dedication to saving our son. I can never thank all the doctors, nurses, technicians, chaplains, pharmacists, social workers, child life, volunteers and pet therapists enough for the dedicated care they provided to my sweet Lee,” said Tanya Sullivan, Lee’s mother.
Lee has also been a great inspiration to Golisano staff members. Many now consider him family after watching his grit and positivity in the face of such a difficult journey.
The feeling is mutual. “The environment played a huge role in treatment. My son never dreads going, but rather looks forward to seeing all the people who always bring a smile to his face,” Tanya added.
Today, Lee has triumphantly conquered sepsis and entered remission. Doctors have changed his chemotherapy treatment from a delayed intensification cycle to a maintenance cycle. Lee is expected to end his treatment regimen on September 12, 2021.
Lee will represent Barbara’s Friends and Golisano Children’s Hospital during this year’s virtual Clips for Cancer event on Friday, Sept. 4. Lee will shave the head of Dr. Shyam Kapadia, a pulmonologist from Golisano Children’s Hospital who chose that specialty for a very personal reason.
“As a child, I remember seeing that my grandmother was very sick, and I watched as my father took care of her hard, and it’s why I chose my specialty. I want to help patients navigate through the system of medicine; I want to help my patients bridge that gap,” Dr. Kapadia explained.
It comes as no surprise that Dr. Kapadia is teaming up with Lee to raise awareness and support for children with cancer. As part of the annual Clips for Cancer fundraiser, many community leaders like Dr. Kapadia will shave their heads in solidarity with the children who have battled this vicious disease and survived.
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