Dylan, 14, Rhabdomyosarcoma

Teen Keeps on Rockin’

At the age of 13, when he should’ve been thinking about rock music, garage bands and summer vacation plans, Dylan Russell was worrying about chemotherapy treatments, radiation and hair loss.

(2006) – “About six months ago, Dylan started complaining of pain in his side, and upon closer inspection, I noticed a knot in his upper back,” said Tana, his mom.  “I immediately took him to the pediatrician who then insisted we go to Texas Children’s Hospital.”

Dylan was admitted to Texas Children’s emergency room where he underwent a series of tests.  Doctors discovered something devastating—a sizeable tumor under Dylan’s shoulder blade.

A biopsy revealed that the tumor was rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the muscle tissue.

“We were in shock when they told us,” said Tana.  “Then it sunk in and we asked ‘what do we do now, what’s our next step?’”

The doctors explained to the Russell family what would happen next. Dylan was put on a 42-week treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation that would hopefully shrink the tumor.

Dylan’s treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center began immediately, and he responded quickly to the drugs.

Dylan today continues his chemotherapy treatments, which have shrunk the tumor.  “The tumor started out the size of a baseball, and now it’s about the size of a coffee bean,” said the now 14-year-old.

Since his treatment began, the teenage music lover has lost all of his hair, but he hasn’t lost his rock-n-roll style.  Dylan totes a blanket with a skull and crossbones pattern on it and sports rocker-inspired slippers.

“Our family is trying to make life as normal for him as possible,” said Tana.  She describes Dylan as funny, talented and inspirational.

“The worst part about losing my hair is the fact that it takes me a lot longer to wash my face in the morning,” joked Dylan, rubbing his bald head.

“I like the doctors at Texas Children’s because they’re cool and they joke around with me,” he added.

Recently, Dylan spent a week at Camp Periwinkle where he was able to participate in archery class, paint ball wars and the ropes course.  Best of all, he formed lifetime bonds with other kids fighting cancer.

“They are people that I will be seeing for a long time to come,” Dylan said of his new friends.  “I had so much fun with them at camp, I can’t wait to go back.”