April 4, 2006 – How many people can find the silver lining in having cancer? Not many people are as impressive as 8-year-old Joshua Alfaro. When asked about his battle with leukemia, which is a blood cancer, Joshua is very matter-of-fact and composed. This is a photo of Joshua with his “cancer bead chain” — each bead represents a procedure related to his treatment. Eight year-old Joshua was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) on February 10, 2005. Joshua has completed one year of his three-year treatment “There are some good parts and some scary parts, but in the end it all balances out,” says Joshua. With jaw-dropping confidence, he even points out his “favorite parts of having cancer.” He adds that if he hadn’t had cancer he wouldn’t have ever met so many nice people (like his favorite nurse), he wouldn’t have learned to make bracelets at Camp Okizu and he wouldn’t have received a medal for his 3rd-place finish in the camp’s archery tournament.
When 10,000 cyclists and 50,000 spectators converge on Laguna Seca for the 16th annual Sea Otter Classic, they’ll be doing a lot more than just celebrating the sport of cycling. They’re also coming together to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Joshua’s honor. Joshua lives in Salinas, just five miles from the site of the Sea Otter Classic, which is North America’s largest cycling festival.
Anyone can make a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – in honor of Joshua – at www.SeaOtterClassic.com Click on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society logo.
The Sea Otter Classic is the “Woodstock of cycling.” Cyclists and spectators spend four days at Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, CA. There are several events each day, ranging from competitive races to recreational rides. The Sea Otter Classic takes place April 6-9, 2006. Joshua might bring his bike to the Classic, too. He rides it often when he’s feeling well enough to play outside.
“The hardest part was when I first realized that I got diagnosed with something this big that would take this long to go away,” says Joshua. “It’s hard going through this, but in the end you feel so great that you pushed through something this big.”
Joshua travels over 100 miles to UCSF once a month for chemotherapy that is administered through a needle in his hand. He also endures lumbar punctures once every three months. Joshua has made it through one year of treatment and is facing two-and-a-half more. He wears an impressive string of beads, with each bead representing a treatment.
When asked about being the honoree for the Sea Otter Classic, Joshua said, “I feel great that they wanted me to do it. It makes me feel happy to know that they’re trying to help with what people are going through. It makes me feel great that they’re doing their best.”
Back in the 1960’s , a child with Joshua’s diagnosis only had a 4 percent chance of survival. Thanks to the great progress made through research, children like Joshua now have an 86 percent chance of survival. But most parents will tell you that anything less than 100 percent is unacceptable.
Donations made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are invested in blood cancer research and patient services. The Society currently supports 27 local research grants at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF for a total commitment of $15 million. Right now, a team of Stanford researchers is working on a vaccine for lymphoma patients, thanks to the Society’s support. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also offers financial assistance, free educational seminars, peer counseling and family support groups for patients.