As we make our final approach to the new year, we want to share a story that embodies the #givingbackchildhood spirit of cc-TDI’s mission. Meet Luke, an inspiring young man whose journey from cancer diagnosis to cc-TDI summer intern, to nursing student at St. Olaf College, is nothing short of remarkable.

In August 2016, what Luke initially thought was a twisted ankle turned out to be a life-altering diagnosis—Stage IV Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. At just 13 years old, he was faced with the haunting reality of a survival rate of under 10%.

The journey ahead was challenging, but Luke faced it with unwavering determination. His subsequent 54-week protocol of chemotherapy, coupled with daily proton radiation, tested Luke’s strength in ways unimaginable. Hospital stays, grueling treatments, and sacrifices became a part of his routine. However, Luke’s spirit remained unbroken, and he found solace in his passion for long-distance running.

Despite missing his entire 8th-grade school year because of treatment, Luke’s determination to continue running led him to join the cross-country team and even compete in high school races while undergoing chemotherapy. His love for running became his coping mechanism, and a testament to the power of pursuing his passion, even in the face of adversity.

Luke’s tenacity is at the heart of our research mission here at cc-TDI. Our work continues because we fundamentally believe every child should have the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams on their terms. The #givingbackchildhood hashtag, in partnership with families and collaborators around the world, is a core value of the science-justified hope we aim to provide through research.

Fast forward to 2021, healthy and determined to give back, Luke found himself gearing up for his third half marathon, the Des Plaines River Trail Half Marathon in the Chicago area. This event is so much more than a typical race. It offers participants the opportunity to fundraise for causes they believe in.

Luke explains his motivation for fundraising, “I hope to allow more children and adolescents diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma to live longer, healthier lives and pursue their own passions.”

Thanks to Luke’s efforts, more than $4,000 was raised for rhabdomyosarcoma research at cc-TDI. And, in a heartening turn of events, Luke further joined our research mission as a student intern in the summer of 2022. Having overcome the formidable challenges of childhood cancer, Luke brought a unique perspective to our team. His dedication and insights proved invaluable, underscoring the importance of the patient/survivor perspective in ongoing research.

Luke’s commitment to the childhood cancer community hasn’t wavered. Inspired by the kindness of his nurses during treatment, Luke plans to pursue a career in nursing to continue making a positive impact on the lives of others. His story has undoubtedly touched our team and will continue to inspire others in the cancer community as well. As we cheer on Luke in his athletic pursuits and future career in nursing, together, let’s take steps to make childhood cancer universally survivable.

This year-end, we ask that you help us in making a difference in childhood cancer. By supporting the #GivingBackChildhood movement, you’re supporting a lab that’s devoted to developing safe and effective treatment options for the most underserved childhood cancers. Today, you can make a difference by clicking here

Our appreciation goes out to Luke for bravely sharing his story in hopes of bringing awareness to the need for childhood cancer research. Thank you!

Share this post
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin