Caiden Lombrana, 10, T-cell Acute Myeloid Leukemia

A Modern Day Gladiator

Football is Caiden Lombrana’s life, but the past two years haven’t afforded him much time to play his favorite sport.  Instead he’s been focused on tackling a different opponent—cancer.

(2006) -The ten-year-old was diagnosed with T-cell acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that’s rarely occurs in adolescents.  Doctors told his parents, Vince and Jennifer, he had a 10 to 25 percent chance of survival—and to expect the worst.

But Vince had watched Caiden play quarterback on the gridiron long enough to know that if anyone could defy the odds, it would be his son.

“Caiden is the toughest football player—and the toughest kid—I know,” he said.

“But these days I no longer see him playing quarterback in a game—instead I see him as a gladiator fighting in a war.  His weapons are his ports, his central lines, his needles, the chemo, the radiation—it’s a real battle for him.”

After two years of undergoing chemotherapy and cranial radiation treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center®, Caiden went into remission. Two months later his enemy was back with a vengeance.

“I beat cancer once, I can beat it again,” he told his parents after learning he would need a bone marrow transplant to live.

Caiden’s devastated family was by his side as he prepared to go a second round with his disease.  And just like any elite warrior, Caiden kept his eye on the ultimate victory—reclaiming his health.

“Caiden knew what was at stake at such a young age, and it was hard for him, but he focused 100 percent on what he was doing,” said Vince.

Caiden successfully transplanted on January 27, 2006, which just so happened to be his mom’s birthday.

“Having Caiden’s bone marrow transplant on that day symbolized that he had started a new life, and so from now on, we’ll celebrate both of our birthdays on that day although it’s not technically Caiden’s birthday,” said Jennifer.

After the transplant, Caiden went into remission but suffered persistent complications in its aftermath.  His fight may not be over yet, but his resolve to heal is stronger than ever.

While Caiden isn’t quite ready to toss the pigskin around yet, he knows that he’s already a member of a winning team.

“We’re all a team here at Texas Children’s—kids, parents, doctors and nurses—it’s phenomenal that everyone can come together for sick kids like Caiden,” said Vince.

Vince wrote a poem entitled “Never Forget” that was inspired by children who battle cancer every day at Texas Children’s.  “It’s written through Caiden’s eyes and through his friends’ eyes that have passed; they will still live on through our eyes,” he said.  Here is what he wrote:

We are modern day gladiators who fight
Not like a prizefighter that fights for a purse
We fight for our lives
No matter the outcome, live or die
Not afraid to look death eye to eye
We accept it with a grace
With a peace of mind
Not scared to leave everything we love behind
We live in a world of darkness
But in this darkness there is a light
A light we are sure to find.
Like the great DaVinci and Michelangelo
Or Romeo and Juliet whose loves echoes in eternity
We are never to be forgotten
For we are the kids of the past, the present, we are the future
So when you hear us call, heed our cry
Because some of us really do die

– By Caiden’s Dad