Foundation will make boy's wish come true
This year, Elliott Bosak learned eating lots of Skittles won't give you cancer. One of his doctors at the University of Minnesota Medical Center shared that gem with the 12-year-old.
While that doctor shared that bit of good news, he and several others also had to teach Bosak hard lessons about the cancer that invaded his liver and put him in a fight for his life.
Bosak was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a rare and aggressive liver cancer, on Dec. 13, 2009. Over the course of the last year Bosak, who loves hockey, has had two liver transplants and several rounds of chemotherapy. He's been poked thousands of times and spent days stuck in a hospital bed.
Bosak's story started on a trip back from Fargo. He had an ache in his side and didn't feel well. His mom, Susan Doherty, thought he had just eaten too much candy.
But the pain continued to worsen so Doherty decided Bosak may be having an appendix attack and took him to the hospital.
After running several tests, a CT scan found that Bosak had an 11-centimeter tumor on his liver. Doctors found the cancer early on, Doherty said, which was a good thing. The course of action for his type of cancer was pretty clear-cut, she added.
Bosak started his treatment with surgery to remove the tumor. After several weeks the tumor started to grow again. So Bosak started chemotherapy to fight the cancer and then had a liver transplant. The first liver he had transplanted wasn't a good match. His body didn't accept it well.
"It felt bigger than it should have been," said Bosak.
So Bosak underwent a second transplant in late June.
"It's like the second liver was meant to be," said Doherty. "We are so grateful that people out there do organ donation."
After he recovered from the second transplant, Bosak had to undergo more chemo to ensure all the cancer cells in his body were eradicated. The two transplants left a large "smile scar" on his torso.
The treatments took a toll on Bosak's body. Bosak lost more than 20 pounds and was down to 69 pounds. Emaciated, Bosak had to have a feeding tube installed to help him get back to a fighting weight.
Slowly but surely, though, Bosak gained weight and strength. Through the fall he continued to feel better and even started the seventh grade with the rest of his classmates at St. Croix Lutheran School.
"It's like having a new person in our family. He's really rebounded and is back to being independent, which is huge," said Doherty with a smile.
Bosak has to take medications daily to prevent his body from rejecting the liver. Once a week he gets blood drawn to make sure everything is on the up and up. He also will have to go in for check ups every three months.
Bosak's on the mend, though, and has resumed a normal life full of school, sports and Skittles.
"Last Christmas was pretty grim for our family, but this Christmas will be really great," said Doherty.
A wish come true
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota grants wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions and chose Bosak to receive a wish.
A history and art lover, Bosak wanted to visit castles in Europe. On Dec. 10, during National Believe Day, Bosak received a European cruise, which he will take next summer with his family.
Doherty didn't know what to think of Bosak's request but has been amazed at the way Make-A-Wish has put it all together.
"He's a big thinker, big dreamer, and he wanted to see castles in Europe," said Doherty. "After he didn't leave the hospital or home for months I didn't see how it would be possible. I underestimated how grand it could be, and Make-A-Wish has made it a dream come true."
The National Believe Day event was held at Macy's at Mall of America. In addition to the trip, Bosak received gifts to prepare him for his trip including an Atlas.
"It was an exciting day and just a lot of fun," said Jean Carlson, a representative with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota grants 250 wishes annually. Macy's is a big supporter of the foundation. Over the Christmas season Macy's is collecting letters to Santa. The department store will donate $1 for every letter it receives up to $1 million dollars.
Bosak said he's excited for the trip.