Ex-President Greg Tobin is a life member of the Nanuet Fire Department. He visits his son in Georgia every now and then, but recently, he’s been making a special stop on the way: the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Hospital (CHOA).
Patrick Chance was adopted by the Nanuet Fire Department and is an honorary member. He also is receiving treatment from CHOA for Neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, which he was diagnosed when he was three. Chance is now eight years old.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Sept. 30 will be CURE’s Press On Day honoring Chance and another young boy, Brennen Simkins.
Tobin remembers when he first met Chance in 2007.
“We took a ride down to Sloan Kettering (Cancer Center) to see some of the kids there. We brought Sparky the Fire dog to lift up the children’s spirit. We got attached to Patrick and that’s how everything started,” he said. “What happened was, on a second visit to Sloan (Kettering), the fire department picked Patrick up and brought him to our firehouse in Nanuet.”
Chance and his family were in New York staying at the Ronald McDonald House for a few visits to Sloane Kettering in March 2008. The members of the Nanuet FD decided that this was a perfect time for Chance to finally visit "his" firehouse for the first time. Along with a photographer, 8-Patrol was dispatched to Manhattan to pick Patrick and his family up. Upon its arrival into Nanuet, the Patrol was met and escorted by a Clarkstown Police car which provided Patrick and his family with a lights and siren escort to the Prospect St. firehouse.
At the firehouse, Patrick was greeted outside by an overwhelming round of applause from the NFD members and community leaders along with the entire Nanuet FD fleet of apparatus and Sparky the FireDog.
“The Nanuet Fire Department swore in Chance as an honorary member. The company brought him a full dress uniform when they swore him in. He loved it (his uniform),” said Tobin. Chance was given bunker gear, which is what firefighters wear when they battle fire. He was also presented with a badge and key.
After lunch, Patrick was given his choice of the Nanuet FD's fleet for his first ride on a fire truck. His choice, 8-1501, was chauffeured by Asst. Engineer Joe Koester for a short trip around Nanuet, complete with waves and cheers from local residents and motorists alike.
After Chance was sworn in, he returned to his home in Georgia since he had finished his treatments at Sloan Kettering. His main hospital is CHOA.
“Neuroblastoma – it’s an aggressive form of cancer that strikes children,” said Tobin. “My nephew had it and he was cured. That’s probably why I took such a liking to young Pat.”
“In 2006, he woke up one morning and he couldn’t walk,” Tobin said. “It’s a cancer of the blood and the nervous system where he’s needed stem cells. He’s been through multiple treatments.”
“He had been sick on and off for a month or so, but had been diagnosed with allergies and typical childhood illnesses,” according to the Nanuet Fire Department. “At the ER that afternoon, Patrick was diagnosed with an infection of his thigh muscle. After he did not improve over the next few days, he was readmitted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a hip infection.
He returned home, and awoke the next day unable to walk again. After several weeks of doctor visits, he underwent a bone marrow biopsy to determine if his problems with leg pain, fever, night sweats, and general malaise were related to a pediatric cancer or blood disorder.
After all the testing, Patrick was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the sympathetic nervous system in June 2006. Neuroblastoma has no known cause and strikes approximately 600 children a year. Because it is particularly difficult to diagnose, most children with neuroblastoma are in stage IV, where five-year survival rates stand at a dismal 20 percent or less. When Patrick was diagnosed, his cancer had already spread throughout his body and bone marrow.
Since his diagnosis, Patrick has endured surgery to
- remove his primary tumor and place a central line
- nine rounds of chemotherapy
- a stem cell transplant
- 12 rounds of radiation
- surgery to remove his central line and place a port, nine rounds of oral chemotherapy
- 9 rounds of monoclonal antibody therapy
He has spent 75 nights in the hospital and many more days enduring blood collections, scans, and checkups. He is currently scheduled for additional surgeries to place a temporary line, harvest stem cells in case of relapse, and then remove the line.
Patrick went into remission in April of 2007, and we are so blessed to have achieved this goal.
Visits Here and There
Tobin went down last week to visit Chance. Before last week, Tobin last saw Chance in May.
“I went to see him and we went out to lunch, me and his mom and Patrick,” Tobin said. “I’ve been going down to Georgia to see my son and on the way down I visit him (Chance).” Tobin’s son is a ranger stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA. Tobin’s son also has twin boys.
Tobin visits Chance about three times a year.
“I stop by and take him out for lunch. Wherever Patrick wants to go to lunch, we’d go. He would decide,” said Tobin. “He’s been my passion since I met him. We try to do everything we can to help him.”
“He’s very sick now. Some of the (Nanuet FD) guys plan on going down to see him. Patrick has come back again to Sloan Kettering and the fire company took him out to dinner in New York City,” said Tobin. “Ten of us from the fire company along with Patrick went to a Manhattan steak house. He loves steak.”
Chance said to his mother, "This is our best day ever in New York."
Press On Day
On September 30, Press On to CURE Childhood Cancer will be highlighted in CURE Childhood Cancer’s CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time, an initiative to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer, according to the Press On Fund. Press On supports research into novel and less toxic therapies for neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia, two deadly pediatric cancers. Press On is inspired by two special little boys who are fighting for their lives against pediatric cancer, Patrick Chance and Brennan Simkins.
“We have been raising money since Patrick was diagnosed in 2006,” said Erin, his mother. “We’ve raised about $800,000. We fund researching for two types of cancer, neuroblastoma and a type of leukemia called Acute myeloid leukemia.” Those interested in more information or interested in donating to this cause can visit Pressonfund.org
Erin Chance added that those making a donation on the website should include “Press On” in the comments section.
In late January 2011, the Chance family home was burglarized. The thieves stole valuable electronics including computers, cameras, iPods, but also stole money Patrick was saving to buy LEGOs with.
“He has two sisters, one older and one younger. It’s been hard (on the family),” said Tobin. “He loves Star Wars The fire company all chipped in and bought a Star Wars LEGO (set) for him.”
Chance is a big animal lover and enjoys golf.
“He is an adorable outgoing and loving kid,” said Tobin. “He’s been very strong through all of this; he doesn’t complain yet he goes through so much pain and radiation treatment. He was just a normal young boy and did everything.”