After battling pediatric cancer, 9-year-old raising money for others through flour challenge :: WRAL.com
Flour — it’s a mess, spreads everywhere, is hard to clean up, and sticks to everything. For 9-year-old Gavin DiLorenzo, battling childhood cancer felt the same way.
Last July, Gavin’s parents, Damon and Danielle DiLorenzo, said they noticed Gavin had a lymph node on his neck. They went to several doctors to find out what was going on. Initially, the doctors said Gavin had an infection.
He was then admitted to UNC Children’s Hospital.
“His health was still deteriorating even though they thought it was an infection,” said Danielle DiLorenzo.
When his platelets dropped, the doctors knew what was going on.
“Eventually he was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphona, aka Burkitt Lymphoma, which is a pretty aggressive form,” says Danielle DiLorenzo.
Burkitt Lyphoma is rare, but very aggressive, according to the Lyphoma Research Foundation. The disease often affects the jaw, central nervous system, bowl kidneys, or other organs.
For six months, Gavin underwent aggressive chemotherapy at UNC Children’s Hospital.
“Gavin has had five or six surgeries and an epidural to get chemo through spinal therapy and bone marrow biopsies,” Danielle DiLorenzo described.
“During his treatment he always said, ‘You know, I don’t understand why I have to get these drugs that make me feel so awful. [and] which come with so many side effects. He always said, ‘I wish I could take a pill and it would make me feel better and heal my cancer,'” said Danielle DiLorenzo.
Gavin also began to question his diagnosis. He asked his parents and doctors questions like, why did he have cancer? Why did this happen to me?
“The doctors always said, ‘Well, we always do research, but we don’t have that answer right now. Hopefully, sometime in the future — if you keep asking me — I might have that answer for you,'” DiLorenzo said.
During his time at UNC Children’s Hospital, Gavin met other children battling cancer. Like Gavin, they struggled with the severe side effects of the medication they received during treatment.
“One of the drugs he was on was actually all the way back to 1959, and it comes with terrible side effects,” Danielle DiLorenzo said.
When Gavin’s cancer went into remission, he asked his parents about the other kids they kept battling.
“We sat down as a family and tried to come up with something,” says Danielle DiLorenzo. “Somehow this flour challenge came out.”
Gavin’s father said that when he and Gavin were in the hospital, they were always looking for things that would make them smile. That vision contributed to the start of the flour challenge.
“I was thinking about the flour challenge [and] I just thought it’s really funny you know somebody gets flour thrown at them and it’s a mess but when you look at them and it makes you laugh… I thought what better way than kids flour on their parents to put a smile on their face,” said Damon DiLorenzo. “Something that makes people laugh, because that’s what you need when you’re going through such a horrible time.”
The struggle to clean up the flour afterwards also symbolizes the struggle that children fighting childhood cancer go through.
“If you can’t get it off after you’ve done it, you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t imagine what these kids are actually going through with the cancer therapies they’re getting and how hard it is because it’s not something simple. It kind of gives the whole picture of what we’ve been through,” said Damon DiLorenzo.
“Take a moment to see what it’s like to wash off some flour, and imagine what it’s like to get chemotherapy,” added Danielle DiLorenzo.
The steps to participate in the flour challenge are simple.
Get covered with flour. Donate to St. Baldricks Foundation. Challenge five people to do the same.
The DiLorenzos said the St. Baldricks Foundation chose it because of its focus on childhood cancer research.
“We thought it was a great place to get people to donate because that’s what they’re targeting [and] trying to get better results and do better research on childhood cancer,” says Damon DiLorenzo.
As Gavin continues to raise money, he says he’s also happy to be able to enjoy the little things in life again.
“I’m usually at school and playing with my puppy,” he added. “I play hockey and I’m swimming.”
“About two months later we were actually working in the garden [going into remission] and Gavin turned to me as he helped spread mulch in the yard. He said, “I’m so happy to be a kid again.” That was something special,” added Damon DiLorenzo.
The DiLorenzos have challenged numerous organizations and celebrities to participate in the challenge, including the Carolina Hurricanes, SAS Analytics, Elon Musk, and Drew Brees.
Those participating in the flower challenge will be asked to hashtag #DiLoStrong