Parmina Valentine - Portrait of a Cancer Survivor
Pauline Marie considers the H1N1 flu to be a blessing. It hampered the breathing ability of her granddaughter Parmina so much that she needed a chest X-ray. If not for that, the mediastinal embryonal germ cell tumor attached to Parmina’s thymus wouldn’t have been discovered before advancing to Stage IV cancer.
Parmina’s cancer is particularly "special" because her type of germ cell tumor is most typically found in older men and testicular cancer. Her doctors – Theodore Zwerdling, Janet Yoon and Gary Raff – removed "Booger" (Parmina’s name for her tumor) and helped her through surgery and chemotherapy, although she will be monitored for the next several years. Chemotherapy side effects included some permanent hearing loss, lung damage and cognitive difficulties, as well as potential kidney problems.
But the irrepressible fifth-grader – "definitely a preteen," laughs her grandmother – has faced down adversity since birth, when she had an enlarged heart and water on the lungs due to her mother’s undiagnosed gestational diabetes.
Today, that perseverance keeps Parmina going.
Today, that perseverance keeps Parmina going. She helps take care of her two younger sisters, both of whom have special needs, and she has started training with a local couple to pursue her dream of being a magician. In August 2010, she performed her magic at the KNCI Radiothon for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
She also wants to spend time volunteering on the hematology-oncology ward, cheering up inpatient kids.
"She knows that some kids feel really blue when they’re in the hospital, and she’d like to help them feel a little better if she can," Pauline says of her granddaughter with admiration. "She is just amazingly upbeat, a happy kid."