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Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
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This larger than life 12-year-old boy is loud, funny and caring, earning him the title “Amazing Max” from his parents. Max is a curious soul. Whether he is cooking up steak and fettuccine alfredo, playing baseball or performing science experiments, Max is always trying new things. When Max isn’t learning, he is teaching others about childhood cancer. He once even stood in front of his entire second-grade class answering questions and teaching the other children how to be a good friend to kids like him.
When he was 6 years old, Max woke up one day with a fever and severe leg pain. Usual children’s pain relievers failed to work, so his parents took him to the doctor. After five consecutive visits, the pediatrician sent for blood work. The results came back abnormal and so they packed a bag to go to the hospital to see a hematologist. Max’s parents tried their best to keep it together so Max wouldn’t feel scared. It took three days of hoping that Max’s blood counts might recover before he underwent a bone marrow biopsy. When the results came back, Max was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Only a day after his diagnosis, Max began his treatment which would last three years. It included spinal taps, steroids and chemotherapy. Within the first month, Max entered remission but had to continue his 1,162-day journey to prevent a relapse. Max surgically received a port, IV and oral chemotherapies, high-dose steroids, and 21 spinal taps. Some nights he even swallowed more than 20 pills. Fortunately, Max had a promising prognosis, and joyfully completed his treatment in 2017.
Max still faces challenges related to his treatment and remains aware of the possibility of late-term side effects or relapse, but his parents marvel at his resilience. During his treatment, Max struggled with getting taunted at school for his baldness. He was also in constant pain and had to make sacrifices to keep up with medication schedules. Yet Max rose above it all, facing treatments with a smile and without complaints. His inquisitive mind always led him to ask questions about his medicine and medical equipment to the point that he would excitedly correct his doctors and nurses. Max even played baseball and basketball, competed on his dive team, and enjoyed archery and ice skating during his battle with cancer. Max didn’t let his diagnosis hold him back.
During treatment, Max’s family learned how to cope and adapt to each new challenge. For families in a similar situation, Max’s mom, Melissa, wants them to know that finding a support system of other parents gave them great advice and acted as a reminder that they were not alone. Melissa also believes that children are resilient, and in many cases can move on easily from the more challenging days.
Since Max’s diagnosis, his family quickly learned that most childhood cancer treatments are over 30 years old and funding for this research is sorely lacking. That’s why they’ve gotten involved with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). They have offered their support for ALSF at CureFest, participated in Alex’s Lemonade Days and Max’s younger brother, Zach, joined the SuperSibs program. Max and Zach hold their own lemonade stand, with the help of their school, and have raised almost $30,000 in support of childhood cancer research.
Information provided by Melissa Weinstock, Max’s mom
Update July, 2020
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