Never tell a kid who has cancer that they can’t do something.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was in the 8th grade, 13-year-old Bennett’s life was turned upside down. At a time when he should be excited about heading to high school, he was starting chemo and radiation. You can help kids like Bennett.
“When I pictured a child with cancer, I imagined them being very weak and sick in a hospital bed. This image did not match me. I had no idea what was going to happen with my friends, school, soccer, and the life I had happily lived so far.”
Bennett was determined to not only beat his cancer, but to fully live. He even declined the placement of a port for his IVs so he could keep playing soccer – which meant needle pokes every day he went to the hospital. “I knew I couldn’t let this disease take something I love away from me.”
As treatment continued, Bennett lost his hair. “When I became bald, my cancer wasn’t a secret anymore. I would be out in public and people would stare. I hated being labeled as the cancer kid. I didn’t want to be given any special treatment. I just wanted to be as normal as possible.”
A few months into his treatment, Bennett was given the opportunity to attend an 8-day adaptive skiing program, the Aspen Winter Games, with the Shining Stars Foundation. Adventure, challenges, and mountains – Bennett was so there.
When he arrived in Aspen, he got just what he needed. He was not labeled a cancer kid or treated like he was fragile, but just got to fit in with a group of teenagers where having cancer was the norm. He was challenged on the slopes, took risks, and no one took it “easy” on him because he had cancer. He was pushed to accomplish things physically on the slope that he didn’t know was possible, along with 70 other patients just like him.
“It was great to just live, have a great time, and get away from the problems I faced,” he shared. “Bit by bit you made one friend, then five, then ten, and then everyone was your friend… by the end of it everyone was like a big family.”
He left with a new perspective. “It was life-changing for me because when you have it really bad, you go there [Winter Games] and see kids who have it so much worse. Some of these kids don’t have an arm or don’t have a leg. They have a smile on their face, just happy to be alive and happy to be there, and it just gives you so much hope.”
Five years later, Bennett still keeps in touch with friends he met while at Winter Games. “As a child going through cancer, you often feel as if you’re all alone and no one else understands what you’re going through. This feeling disappears when you are surrounded by kids who are going through the same problems both mentally and physically.”
We dare you to try to keep up with Bennett now. He hasn’t let cancer slow his life down. He is a freshman at DePauw university, still plays soccer every week, and recently returned to the Aspen Winter Games Program as an adaptive ski instructor, mentoring other kids facing the same challenges he overcame.
“Cancer sticks with me every day. It has changed the way I live. You really put everything in perspective. I’ve been told that I don’t get super stressed out. It is because it doesn’t get a whole lot worse than cancer. It puts it all in perspective.”