Cancer-free Cub Scout returns annually to visit his Karmanos radiation team
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Boy Scout Andrew Redlawski, a Stage IV Wilm’s Tumor survivor, takes a popcorn order from Mara Jelich, executive director of Radiation Oncology at Karmanos.
Andrew J. Redlawski has experienced a lot in his 10 years of life. He was diagnosed with Stage IV Wilm’s Tumor, a tumor that forms in the kidneys and occurs mostly in children, in June of 2008, a month after he turned 5.
“We took him to our pediatrician and the doctor felt a large lump in his stomach and directed us to another hospital for further observation and treatment,” said his mother, Julie Redlawski. “We did not feel good about that decision. First, we prayed to God that our son would be OK and then we had a meeting with my husband Marv’s extended family, who has dealt with childhood illness before.
“There was no question, Andrew had to be moved to Children’s Hospital right away. We literally stopped the surgery that was planned for Andrew the very next day and drove him down to Children’s Hospital. Now, five years later, we know it was the best decision we made for Andrew’s care.”
During his treatment at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Andrew underwent chemotherapy and surgery, and he received radiation treatments at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center.
Julie and Marv describe the atmosphere at Karmanos and Children’s Hospital as “a big loving family who just wrapped their arms around them and reassured them that their son would be OK.”
“It was such a wonderful experience knowing that Andrew was in such professional and capable hands,” Marv said. “Not only did the staff at Karmanos and Children’s Hospital know what they were doing for our son, they explained it in very understandable language the treatments that he needed and what we would experience during the healing process.
“I don’t know how they did it but they made us feel like Andrew was their only patient.”
Andrew spoke about his time at Karmanos and Children’s Hospital.
“It was kind of hard being in the hospital,” he said. “Some parts I didn’t like but some of it was kind of fun” including a raffle he took part in while being treated that netted him some cool pool toys.
He said it was challenging to stay still while receiving radiation but that the beds were comfortable at Children’s Hospital. And though receiving chemotherapy, surgery and radiation may seem daunting to the average person, Andrew says, “It sounds like a lot but it wasn’t too much.”
Today Andrew is cancer-free, doing great and enjoys many activities most boys like – fishing, hiking, camping, building forts, climbing trees, building bird houses, wrestling with his four brothers, riding horses and even chasing the chickens that he raises at his East China Township home, which also serves as a small farm.
Andrew continues to visit Karmanos and Children’s Hospital for his annual check-ups and while he is there, he sells gourmet popcorn to the staff that treated him to raise funds for the Cub Scouts.
“It’s fun seeing everyone,” he said on a recent trip to Karmanos’ Gershenson Radiation Oncology Center (GROC), decked out in his red, beige and plaid scouting uniform to take popcorn orders.
Andrew works hard to raise funds for the Scouts so that he can take part in the troop’s various activities including camping, archery, fishing, soap box derby racing and crafts as well as field trips with his fellow members. His favorite trip was to Frankenmuth and he’s also been to Disneyland and the Great Wolf Lodge.
Andrew has been a successful salesman in years past, raising as much as $2,000 for the Scouts. He has also won top prizes through the various sales contests through the Scouts, including a sleeping bag, full camp outfit, model cars and gift cards. He says he’s used the gift cards to purchase Halloween costumes for himself.
Though Karmanos treats mostly adults with cancer, the center’s GROC treats about 300 children each year with radiation oncology services, many coming from Children’s Hospital. They see kids with a wide range of cancers. Jay Burmeister, Ph.D., chief of Physics within the Department of Radiation Oncology at Karmanos and Wayne State University School of Medicine, said staff really enjoys seeing Andrew when he visits to sell his popcorn.
“Andrew is fun and it’s refreshing to see him year after year,” he said. “It’s great to see him doing so well.”