Young cancer patients, families celebrate life
LAFAYETTE — Dr. Ammar Morad has seen a lot of pediatric cancer patients in his career, but 10-year-old Chloe Manuel is “in a field of her own,” the doctor said.
Chloe, of Lafayette, was diagnosed with a pure germinoma brain tumor in May. Since then, she has been in the pediatric cancer program at Women’s & Children’s Hospital and has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy in her battle with the tumor.
It’s a fight Chloe seems to be winning, her mother, Stephanie Manuel, said last week.
After her second round of chemotherapy, radiologists were unable to detect the tumor, Manuel said.
“She’s been amazing,” her mother said. “For the most part, I’ve never seen someone as strong and courageous as she is. She’s got to be feeling really bad for her to complain. She has done much better than I or her father (Garrett) could have ever done with the things that she’s gone through.”
Morad said it’s this sort of resilience that led him into the field.
“Children are very unaware that they are dealing with a life and death situation,” Morad said, adding that as a result children tend to be very compliant with the medical staff.
Morad said it helps that Chloe is surrounded by a “wonderful family that has provided support for her every step of the way.”
Chloe, too, was quick to point to her family as a source for her strength. Chloe said she has “amazing parents” and a twin brother, Jaxon, who has also cared for her “every single step of the way.”
“He is just like the best brother ever,” Chloe said.
Chloe recently finished her last two rounds of chemotherapy and is now scheduled to begin 20 radiation sessions, which will run Monday through Friday for four weeks. If all goes as expected, she’ll return to her fourth grade class at Our Lady of Fatima School in November.
At that point, the family will “pick up where we left off, I guess,” Manuel said.
And, as Chloe said, “pretend like nothing happened.”
In her absence this year, Chloe said, a stuffed monkey named Violet has taken her place at school. It’s part of the “Monkey in My Chair” initiative, a national program for preschool and elementary-aged children who have cancer.
“It’s sitting where I would sit in my class. It’s pretty cool,” Chloe said.
She will join about 100 families at the second Celebrate Life event where Women’s & Children’s Hospital pediatric cancer patients and their families gather to celebrate their victories.
Morad said the event is also meant to reinforce the message to families that “they are not alone in this journey.”
According to statistics provided by the hospital, 47 pediatric cancer patients have been treated since the program began four years ago. The center, which serves a 16-parish area, currently has a 95 percent cure rate.
“They fight the fight and they go through the hardships, and we wanted to make sure that at the end of the day they have something to celebrate,” Morad said.
The private event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at River Ranch Town Square. Highlighting the celebration will be face painting, fun jumps, food and music, Morad said.
“I can’t wait to go and see all of the patients,” Chloe said. “I really can’t wait to go. I hope it’s going to be a blast.”