Childhood cancer survivor inspires community and spreads awareness

Childhood cancer survivor inspires community and spreads awareness

12-year-old Ben Martinez was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer last year, and is now in remission.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Nearly a year after Columbia Elementary School student Ben Martinez was diagnosed with cancer, he is in remission.

Martinez, 12, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2013 that affects approximately two percent of children.

Diane Proctor, Martinez’s mother, said that learning of his diagnosis was one of the hardest things she has ever had to hear.

“Even though it was a challenge, and a big journey, and a battle for us, we have been so blessed,” Proctor said.

Now that he has entered remission, Martinez said he’s excited to not have to undergo further treatments.

“Thank goodness,” Martinez said. “I hated going there.”

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, approximately 35 children are diagnosed with cancer every day.

After Martinez’s victory, both mother and son hope to spread awareness of the prevalence of childhood cancer, and how others can join the fight.

Families and organizations around town joined together at Mondavi Park in Northwest Bakersfield to learn how to support children and their families who are battling cancer.

Briana Schecter knows the needs of families who are battling cancer first hand. After the death of her two-year-old daughter from brain cancer four years ago, Schecter started the Second Star to the Right organization to support other families dealing with cancer.

Schecter said that Second Star to the Right helps with gas cards, grocery cards, groceries, dinners, and anything that families may need in their homes.

Some, however, need help with a home away from home, as they travel more than 50 miles to stay with children at the hospital.

That is where the Ronald McDonald House comes in. The organization supplies fully stocked bedrooms and kitchens for families away from home.

Despite the monetary and emotional challenges families face when dealing with childhood cancer, Martinez wants other children to learn how to fight cancer.

“Keep fighting on, ‘cause my mom said there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “So you just keep on fighting until you make it to the end.”

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