Boy & Girl of the Year

Delaware's Boy & Girl of the Year

The Boy & Girl of the Year are local blood cancer survivors who motivate and inspire the Man & Woman of the Year candidates throughout the competition.  The Man of the Year candidates run on behalf of the Girl of the Year, and the Woman of the Year candidates run on behalf of the Boy of the Year.  These young heroes are being treated at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, and they look forward to sharing their personal stories this season!

Boy of the Year

Colin Tjaden
Colin Tjaden

In July 2013 we were on a family vacation in Ocean City, NJ when we noticed large bruises on Colin?s back.  He?d had bruises on his arms and legs, but we attributed that to being a boy and playing rough.  We thought it was odd though having bruises on his back, especially after vacation when they weren?t going away.  Colin was set to start 3rd grade in a new school and needed a school physical.  While at the doctor we pointed out the bruises.  She was concerned and sent us to have stat lab work performed.  Within 2 hours the same pediatrician who 22 years previously had diagnosed Colin?s father with non-hodgkin?s lymphoma was calling to tell us to take Colin to A.I. DuPont Hospital because she thought that he had leukemia.

Thinking back that drive to the hospital seemed like a dream. When we got to the hospital they were waiting for us and that is when the reality of the nightmare truly set in.  Within 45 minutes we were checked in and Colin was in a room.  We checked in on Thursday evening, he had a bone marrow aspiration on Friday, and by Saturday afternoon we were sitting with an oncologist discussing clinical trials and their hope of beginning treatment on Sunday.  Colin had acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  We sat and listened while the doctor explained to an 8 year old what was happening.  At the end of the conversation with a smile on his face Colin asked if he could just keep his hair.

On Monday Colin started chemotherapy, the first of 6 rounds.  Over the course of treatment Colin maintained a positive attitude continuing to do all of the things an 8 year old does.  He played air hockey, Wii, did arts and crafts, and rode a bike through the halls of the Blood & Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at A.I. DuPont Hospital.  He watched movies, played games, made new friends, and even lost one to the very disease that he was fighting.  Colin, like other children with leukemia, endured something that no child should ever have to go through.  He cried when he didn?t want to take his medications because they tasted bad, at times during treatment the very medication that was fighting his AML was making him too ill to eat, too tired to participate in school, even sending him to the Pediatric ICU during one round of chemotherapy.  We were amazed at what this strong little boy was able to bear.

We spent 7 months in the hospital, coming home for short periods of time between cycles of chemo. The BBMT became our home away from home and the nurses were like family.  Colin loved all of the nurses and he still visits every month when he has his doctor appointments.  He even named his stuffed animal Susan, after his favorite nurse. We couldn?t be more thankful for the high caliber of care and support that everyone on the BBMT unit provided. 

We never thought we would see the light at the end of the tunnel, but due to the care that we received at A.I. DuPont Hospital and Colin?s determination to beat leukemia we made it.  Colin is a happy, healthy 9-year-old boy who will be cancer free for 1 year as of February 2015.


Girl of the Year

Sami Meyers
Sami Meyers

Sami was born 4 weeks early in April 2007. Having Down Syndrome, Sami required an open heart surgery to correct a valve defect at just 5 weeks old. Sami was playing on her school playground just before dismissal in February of 2012, her teacher noticed she was acting strange. Suddenly, Sami passed out. She was rushed to the nurse where she was given oxygen. Blood tests showed something the family never expected - their loving, happy, sunshine had pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Sami has been in remission since March 2012 and her treatment completed in May 2014. 

During the course of 3 school years, Sami missed upwards of 200 days of school for various treatments related to her leukemia, including a 3 week stay at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in May 2014 for a severe upper respiratory infection caused by rhinovirus, enterovirus, and pneumonia.  During the first marking period of the 2014-15 school year, she received an award for perfect attendance and has only missed 1 day of school (during her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World) as of 2/2/15.

She enjoys watching movies and music videos, playing soccer, and swimming.

 

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