While most schoolchildren spend their free time daydreaming about recess, running between classes or chatting by their lockers, Christian Nieto has spent most of his childhood fighting to make it through another day. Christian has been battling familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) since the tender age of three.
According to the National Institutes of Health, FAP is a rare condition in which precancerous tumors, or adenomas, develop in the intestines. A hereditary condition, patients who do not undergo treatments have a 100% chance of developing colorectal cancer. Polyps appear as early as adolescence. Unless the colon is removed, these will become malignant.
As the oldest of two siblings, Christian prays every night that he will be the only brother to develop FAP. That’s because Christian is not the only one in his family who has had to face cancer. The Nieto family has dealt with this inherited disease over several generations. Christian’s father, Auturo, also carries the mutated gene that causes FAP as well. Thankfully, Auturo has been in remission since 1966.
In 2016, Christian endured critical chemotherapy treatments at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida that saved his life. As any cancer patient will tell you, the resulting hair loss is an incredibly painful experience, both psychologically and emotionally. For a child, this can be downright devastating.
You would never guess that Christian fought cancer and won by looking at him today. Christian wears his long locks pulled back into a man bun because, sadly, FAP is not the only battle that he has had to fight. Christian has also had to stand up for himself against schoolyard bullies who didn’t understand or respect his healthcare diagnosis – and mocked Christian mercilessly.
For bullies, any “difference” is game for cruel torment. In this case, they targeted the scars on Christian’s head. They are evidence of the many procedures Christian endured during his long diagnosis and treatment process, including three titanium plates in his skull. In order to hide these scars, he grew out his hair so that people would no longer make fun of his differences.
At Golisano Children’s Hospital, they prefer to think of those scars as battle wounds, and Christian, the brave warrior who valiantly triumphed over a dangerous foe. The board-certified medical professionals who comprise the care team at the hospital truly understand and are dedicated to giving their young patients the whole-person support, treatment and resources needed, all in one convenient location close to home.
Cancer is not an easy diagnosis, but the recovery rates at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers surpass the national average. It is the only hospital of its kind between Tampa and Miami, sharing the same commitment to exceptional care and excellence in treatment protocols as other leading cancer centers across the nation.
Christian is beyond grateful for the care he received at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Christian continues to fight on, knowing that he has plenty of support in his corner. Despite several setbacks, Christian is steadily working to finish high school and receive his well-deserved diploma with only three credits left to complete!
Will you show Christian your support during this year’s Clips for Cancer event? The annual fundraiser benefits Barbara’s Friends, the Golisano Children’s Hospital cancer fund. Support through Barbara’s Friends prevents the financial strain of the healthcare setting becoming a barrier that might prevent young children like Christian from receiving the treatment they need. Instead, Barbara’s Friends helps ensure any family can access the highly specialized services at Golisano Children’s Hospital while also staying close to home during treatment.
Join Christian for the virtual Clips for Cancer fundraiser that will take place on Friday, Sept. 18. Christian will shave the head of Al Kinkle, who is the chairman of Barbara’s Friends. All proceeds will benefit Barbara’s Friends and be used to help cover child life services, infusion equipment, and the very best in medical care for children with cancer and other blood disorders.