Pediatric Cancer, Warrior Of The Week

Cancer Warrior, Dakota Blevins

Fourth and Gold highlights a cancer warrior that has bravely and fiercely stood strong against childhood cancer. At Fourth and Gold, we want you to see the faces behind our drive and connect with them in a way you wouldn’t have been able to if you didn’t take the stand to demand #MoreThan4. These precious kids have cancer, but cancer does not have them.

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Dakota Blevins, diagnosed with high risk medulloblastoma* at 4.5 years old

Current Age: 5 (DOB 1/17/14)

Favorite things: Dakota is all boy! He loves to put down electronics and get outside and play! When Dakota is feeling well enough, he enjoys hiking, 4 wheeling, the mountains and the beach. When Dakota isn’t out exploring nature, he enjoys Star Wars, Super Hero’s (because he is one!) and playing video games

Favorite foods: Dakota has been 99% g-tube fed* since his initial tumor resection but that doesn’t stop him from taking a bite of a donut, pizza or oranges when they’re around 🙂

Typical day looks like: Dakota spends his days with Mom and baby brother. Four days a week Dakota goes to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology appointments. He just graduated from weekly clinic visits to monthly clinic visits. When not traveling around for appointments he enjoys doing his homeschool activities and playing.

If you know Dakota, you know that he: Has the most infectious laugh you have ever heard! He is a fun-loving, silly boy with a huge heart. Dakota has inspired us to do more, as he is always wanting to help out any and everybody with whatever they need (behind the scenes of course because Dakota doesn’t want all the credit 😉 )

What you can’t see here is that Dakota has undergone:

  • EVD (External Ventricular Drain Placement
  • Craniotomy with tumor resection, resulting in posterior fossa syndrome*
  • Port and G-tube* placement surgery
  • 30 rounds of cranialspinal proton radiation requiring daily anesthesia 4 hours away from home
  • Chemotherapy lasting for 6 months
  • Taking multiple medications
  • Multiple blood and platelet transfusions
  • Hair loss
  • Multiple MRI’s, lumbar punctures and port accesses
  • Dozens of clinic appointments, hospital admissions and missing out on getting to live a care-free 5 year old life

Dakota’s Mom, Christina, on the hardest part about having a child with cancer: “Not being able to make it all better and protect him. Having to hold him down while he screams in pain and fear. Not being able to leave the house in fear of him getting sick. The fear. Will he survive? What will his future look like? Will he be happy? Will the cancer return?”

One thing you wish people knew about childhood cancer: “Childhood cancer is not rare. The treatments are outdated and the side-effects are potentially worse than the cancer itself. We need better funding for kinder treatments that cure. Families are uprooted and separated. They are emotionally and financially destroyed. It is all consuming. Nothing else matters but saving your child and that’s all you do or think about all day, every day.”

How has childhood cancer impacted your lives the most: “After Dakota woke up from his craniotomy he developed what is called posterior fossa syndrome*. He could not talk, swallow, walk, hold his head up, move his limbs, control his eyes or control his emotions. We felt like we had lost him even though he was still here. Slowly, he started to relearn how to do everything. It was so incredibly frustrating for him to not be able to do what he knows he could do before and not be able to communicate his frustrations. My sweet, loving little boy turned into a very angry, emotionally unpredictable child that we feared to go out with for we didn’t know how he might react. He is talking, trying to run again and learning to control his emotions. For us, it’s the PTSD, the anxiety, the isolation and the grief of this ambiguous loss for what could have been. We truly cherish the small things so much now. You never really now how precious they are until you have lost them.

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Dakota’s journey thus far has been gut wrenching. A journey not meant for a 5 year old. A journey that has forever altered the Blevins family, for better or for worse. Like so many amazing warriors, Dakota has trudged through more in his 5 years of life than many adults ever do. He’s endured a lifetime of pain, worry and fear in 1 short year. Our mission at Fourth and Gold is to introduce you to children like Dakota and their families to bring a face to childhood cancer awareness in hopes that it will inspire you to help us close the gap on research funding.

Unlike adult cancers who receive 96% of all research funding, childhood cancer research receives a measly 3.8%. WHY? Because it is considered “RARE”yet 43 children per day or 15,780 children per year are expected to be diagnosed with cancer and since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer (National Pediatric Cancer Foundation)

How can YOU help close this gap between pharmaceutical companies and childhood cancer research? Consider making monthly donations to the non-profit childhood cancer research foundations below:

Cure Childhood Cancer

St. Baldricks Foundation

Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Beat NB

Want to do your part, but look good while doing it? These companies give to childhood cancer research based off a percentage of their profit:

Fourth and Gold -> Donates 100% of profit in September, 50% all other months and donates a warrior shirt to a child with cancer with every purchase made

Love Your Melon -> Donates 50% of profit and donates a LYM beanie to a child with cancer with every beanie sold

Head Bands of Hope -> Donates 10% of profit and donates a headband to a child with cancer with every headband sold

We ask that on behalf of Dakota and the 42 other children who will get diagnosed with cancer today, that you consider skipping that extra coffee or dinner out and donate it to childhood cancer research. Awareness, funding and dedication to changing the research world of childhood cancer is desperately needed.

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*Medulloblastoma: “A brain tumor located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, coordination, and other complex motor functions. Medulloblastomas grow most often in the central part of the cerebellum, and less frequently in the outer parts of the cerebellum” (Boston Children’s).

*Posterior Fossa Syndrome: “This syndrome involves a variety of signs and symptoms including mutism or speech disturbances, dysphagia, decreased motor movement, cranial nerve palsies and, emotional lability. These signs and symptoms develop from an average range of 24 to 107 hours after surgery and may take weeks to months to resolve. The exact etiology of the syndrome is unknown” (National Institute of Health)

*A gastrostomy tube (also called a G-tube) “is a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach. It’s one of the ways doctors can make sure kids with trouble eating get the fluid and calories they need to grow.” (Kid’s Health)

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