Joseph was diagnosed with Hodgekins Lymphoma at age 16, just before the end of his sophomore year in high school. What had started as intense shoulder pain only worstened with treatment, and soon after, Joseph would be forced to trade his video games and Legos for fears that most children his age have never even considered.
In September 2017, Joseph began to experience pain in his shoulder. Naturally, his parents explored typical causes for this type of pain in a teenaged boy - poor posture, heavy backpack, horseplay. It wasn't until an acupuncture visit in December 2017 that they knew that something was terribly wrong with their son. The acupuncturist found swollen glands in Joseph's neck and
recommended that they visit their pediatrician. Joseph was examined by his doctor, who thought that the lump was caused by illness, but did not prescribe pain medication. It wasn’t until weeks had passed that the family noticed Joseph’s pain and neck swelling hadn’t subsided that they would contact their pediatrician who would then refer Joseph to to an orthopedic doctor. They were advised “If the pain becomes too much while waiting for an appointment, go to the ER.”
Throughout that week, Joseph's pain intensified. On Sunday, March 4, 2018 at 7am, his mother found him on the living room couch, struggling to sleep or find comfort. She rushed him to the hospital, where he underwent a series of tests. Six hour later, Joseph's doctor asked his mother to step out into the hallway to speak privately about his findings: Joseph had a malignant mass in his neck. His mother's body went cold. How could she tell her sweet, fun-loving, outgoing, completely normal little boy that he would not be going home that night?
Joseph's father arrived at the hospital and he and his mother told Joseph the news together. Joseph cried, terrified and confused. He was admitted to the oncology floor for more testing, where he remained for the next 21 days. During that time, Joseph had a biopsy, which confirmed his diagnosis. He spent nearly a month in treatment, separated from his family and friends. He had 5 rounds of chemotherapy in total. His sleep was often interrupted by his own questions and fears - why was this happening?
From March through June 2018, Joseph was hospitalized 7 times. He missed out on family movie nights and boogie-boarding with his friends. He completed his 10th grade year feeling isolated. Nonetheless, he handled the entire experience with grace and kindness toward others. He held himself together when his parents were privately in pieces. This year, Joseph's family has grown closer than ever, and he has learned some of the most valuable lessons of his life - that it doesn't matter what other people think, and that life is all about living.
For Joseph, a Rooms to Thrive would represent a new haven - an opportunity to settle back into his life. A quiet place for him to rest and to be alone. A place for him to create. To rediscover. To rebuild. Help us give Joseph a Rooms to Thrive™ by donating here today.