Shave your head and/or donate to help local boy fight cancer; six-year-old Bodhi is fighting a very rare, aggressive cancer

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Reporter

“In an instant, your entire world can change right before your eyes, the rug ripped out from beneath your feet, and life as you knew it, forever changed.”
Mammoth resident Shannon Robertson knows of what she speaks.
It’s been about six weeks since she took her six-year-old son Bodhi to Mammoth Hospital with what seemed, on that snowy morning of Feb. 8, to be either the flu or a bad stomach ache.
But by the end of that terrible day, doctors had found a tumor the size of a grapefruit growing in the little boy’s abdomen and by the end of the day, the words a mother most dreads to hear were spoken – cancer.
And not just any kind of cancer, but one of the rarest and most aggressive kinds of cancer, one that seems to hit young boys the hardest for reasons unknown, called Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
It is now six weeks later and as of this week, Bodhi just completed another round of chemotherapy, she said, and there are many more difficult days ahead for him and for the family, which are now living in Southern California, both at UCLA and with her family, during and in-between treatments.
Now, as she and Bodhi’s family go through what can only be described as a living nightmare, she is hoping that getting the word out about this terrible cancer will possibly, someday, help another child.
“The most important thing is just the awareness of this disease and how rare it is,” she said. “It affects only two out of one million children a year. I am hoping that if anyone has resources out there to do anything about it, they do. This is a super unusual and strange cancer, cause unknown. What is crazy to me is I have worked at the health food stores and have been involved with nutrition most if my life, we live here in the Eastern Sierra, we have clean air and clean water, we eat organic food and so the fact that it happened to Bodhi means it can happen to anyone.”
The nightmare started when she got a call that her son was sick; that he was pale and had a very bad stomach ache.
“We went home, he was crying,” she said.
“The next morning, we went to the clinic, they thought maybe it was a ruptured appendix, then they sent us to the ER and by the end of the day, they found a mass, the size of grown man’s fist, in his abdomen.
“By the time we got to UCLA, with more tests and imaging, we were told is doubling in size daily," she said. "It grows that fast. It’s a good thing we caught it when we did.”
She said because the cancer is so aggressive and advanced, the treatment is also very aggressive, putting little Bodhi through more than anyone should have to endure.
“So, now, the way they treat Burkitt’s is with very, very aggressive treatments with the gnarliest chemo there is,” she said.
She said the doctors have been happy about how well Bodhi has handled it so far, but it has been very hard to see her child suffer so much.
“They break him down until he has absolutely nothing, then back we go, and they do it all over again,” she said.
The success rate of living through five years is very high, she said, but Bodhi has had some complicating factors that have made this a very hard situation.
She praised Mammoth Hospital for finding the mass inside Bodhi so fast, and she praised his wonderful doctors but she said no matter what, this has been an extremely challenging time for everyone.
“It has been a nightmare,” she said, “a terrible nightmare.”
"As we embark on the scariest, most enduring journey of our lives, I beg that everyone prays for Bodhi’s full recovery. This world needs his love and light. ...With all of my heart, thank you to all the staff in Mammoth who were so good to Bodhi and continue to check in and pray for him daily. I am grateful for you guys!"
Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun and some of her deputies are just a few of the big extended Eastern Sierra family coming to the family’s aid.
This Friday, March 15, Braun and several deputies will be at the Mammoth Lakes Fire Station #1 where they will shave their heads and then donate the hair to a charity that creates wigs for children with cancer.
Braun said the event, a St. Baldrick’s Foundation event, was actually planned last year and she has been growing her hair since then but when she heard about Bodhi, it made the event even more important.
“We’ve been planning this for nearly a year,” she said. “It grew out of our ‘No-Shave’ November campaign in 2017. I told the deputies they could keep their beards in our 2018 No-Shave November if they agreed to participate in St. Baldrick’s. And as added incentive, I promised to shave my head too,” she said.
“When I learned about Bodhi a month ago, I knew we needed to dedicate our event to him. I’m familiar with St. Baldrick’s through LAPD, where I have friends and co-workers who participated, and whose own children were stricken with cancer. Due to the rarity of this disease, it is of the utmost importance to Bodhi’s mother to raise awareness and fund childhood cancer research in hopes of preventing future little ones from experiencing such burdens.”
She said the public is invited to the event, which will be held at 3 p.m. at the station at 3150 Main Street.
“This event is open to the public, who are encouraged to come watch the shaving, support Bodhi and his family, and donate whatever amount they can.
Anyone who might want to shave their head and donate can do it that day, as well, she said (see information below).
She said the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer and donor powered charity committed to supporting the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives.

IF YOU WANT TO HELP BODHI

• Bodhi has a GoFundMe account to support him and his family during treatment. Any excess funds will go toward childhood cancer research. Go to https://www.gofundme.com/bodhisbattleagainstburkitts. Due to the rarity of this disease, it is of the utmost importance, Robertson said, to fund childhood cancer research and education. This is why she said she will be giving a large portion of funds raised to the best researchers and organizations she can find.

• To learn more about Bodhi, visit his St. Baldrick’s page at:https://www.stbaldricks.org/kids/mypage/9149

• Visit the Mono County Sheriff’s St. Baldrick’s page at:https://www.stbaldricks.org/events/MonoCountyShave2019

• Anyone interested in also having their head shaved on March 15 at 3 p.m. can email the Sheriff’s Department St. Baldrick’s coordinator at pio@monosheriff.org for more information.

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