Childhood Cancer Heroes

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Kabir Taunk

  • Age 11
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

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Kabir is a boy that wants to bring happiness to people’s souls. When he shares his career dreams, he sometimes says YouTube gamer, but mostly he says chef. He has a passion for cooking. It is a way to take care of and nurture others. His mom sees him running a cozy Italian café or maybe an energetic Japanese anime themed restaurant. 

Kabir was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a high-risk form of leukemia, known as Philadelphia Chromosome-positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (PH+ ALL).  His initial treatment at Lucile Packard Stanford Children's Hospital involved intensive, high-risk chemotherapy for two years. His treatment ended and it felt like cancer could be behind Kabir. But, then he relapsed in July 2019, in central nervous system. The family faced a harsh reality—Kabir needed more aggressive treatment. They headed to a CAR-T clinical trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), nearly 3,000 miles away from home.  Despite their high hopes, Kabir experienced another relapse six months later, and yet again in July 2020 amidst the pandemic, each setback requiring more invasive treatments and introducing new, lifelong challenges.

In the summer of 2020, amidst considerations for palliative care, the family’s hopes were renewed through a bone marrow transplant from Kabir's younger brother, Ayaan, a testament to their profound sibling bond. Kabir also underwent an orchiectomy requiring future hormone replacement therapy for his entire adult life. The rigors of the bone marrow transplant and its aftermath were daunting, leading to severe side effects and a year-long battle with thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA), which significantly impacted Kabir's kidneys and overall health.

Recent challenges have included Kabir grappling with a rare condition affecting his spine's cauda equina region, a consequence of the intensive chemotherapy, which has introduced new neurological hurdles. His educational journey has been significantly disrupted, necessitating a highly individualized approach to learning and daily living, underscored by chronic migraines, daily debilitating pain, severe nausea managed with chemotherapy-grade medications, neuro-cognitive deficits making learning very difficult, hypertension and neuropathic pain. Additionally, he has experienced intermittent incontinence and limb weakness, necessitating the use of a wheelchair for mobility.

Despite everything, Kabir’s zest for life is still going strong. He is 11 years old. In addition to his passion for cooking, he loves anime, swimming, and video games, alongside the joy he finds in spending time with Ayaan and the family dogs, Hachi and Mochi.

What makes Kabir a hero to his family is that he is braver than they ever could have imagined. He is a fighter. He often says, "Look on the bright side," even during this difficult fight. Kabir is still a giving and extremely loving person. Cancer didn't take that kindness away from him.

Their advice to anyone else going through this is to take it one day at a time. Most people don't know how to live that way going into this, but it is the only way to survive it. Learn to live in the present and take the good days as they come. The tough days will pass. For them, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) is amazing because of its support for research. Research is knowledge, and knowledge is power. It will lead to better drugs, understanding of the disease and better treatment options.

Kabir is already giving back in his own way too. He’s fundraised for the Foundation and his school is hosting a lemonade stand to support ALSF. Kabir has shared his cancer journey at an assembly for his entire school—braving telling his classmates: “I was affected by the chemo so I can’t learn math or spelling as well now.”

His family’s hopes for Kabir to get better remain strong.  They will continue to accept and love him, exactly how he is. 

Hero Quote: "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!" – Kabir Taunk 

Information provided by Bhavika Taunk, Kabir’s mother
Updated February 2024

Read more about Kabir’s SuperSib Ayaan.

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