SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – For most children, summer means playing outside whether it is at the playground or on the baseball field, but for 11-year-old Gaige Hernandez he must be extra cautious.
September is childhood cancer awareness month. Many children and their families are finding new challenges in a pandemic world.
Gaige’s mother, Serena Hernandez, never expected her 11 year old’s battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Hernandez says she “went to sleep one night and never even questioned childhood cancer, woke up and there I was – I was that mom.”
Her son Gaige had to put baseball on pause after years of treatment. He went into remission on September 17th, 2018 and has been in remission for two years – now he found himself facing another obstacle – COVID-19.
“It was like he couldn’t win for losing and if it wasn’t the cancer pulling him off the field it was the pandemic,” Hernandez said.
The Hernandez family isolated themselves for months, but Gaige tested positive for the virus.
She said, “I didn’t know how it was going to affect him because the littlest things can cause Gaige a trip to the ER or admission into the hospital… because even the smallest colds are big for him.”
His mother says he had a fever for two days, but “with a virus like that you don’t have control or don’t understand what it’s doing.”
Gaige did not let any challenge beat him; he beat COVID-19 just like be beat cancer.
Serena says, “no matter how big or small Gaige is going to climb, and he just has a fight and never gives up.”
The fight was not just Gaige’s but his family’s. Their support came from unexpected places like Courageous Kidz, an organization that focuses on kids and families devastated by childhood cancer.
Debby Stephenson, the founder and director of the local non-profit, says cancer is a lifetime sentence.
“When a child is diagnosed with cancer first off, it’s a shock with the parents and child,” she said.
Families with children who have cancer face a lot of problems, especially financial.
The organization helps families by helping with rent, food, travel, gas, tires, and other financial burdens.
Gaige is back on the diamond playing pitcher and short stop for the Warhawks in Summerville.
Serena says, “he’s really the face of hope here in the community not just for you and I as adults, but for so many other children who are facing different challenges in his life.”