Meet this year's kids
Rusty Nygaard, Age 11
Rusty, an avid baseball player, was excited about the start of Pony-league season last September when his mother noticed two thick veins running from his collarbone and his right shoulder. Though it didn’t bother him, his mother, Brenda, kept an eye on it.
At the second game of baseball season, another mother in the stands, who is also a pediatrician, overheard Brenda talking about Rusty’s neck and offered to take a look at it. They pulled Rusty out of the dug-out for a quick examination. The family’s life changed forever when she said, “Something’s not right. You need to take him to CHKD.”
Tests were taken that day at CHKD and a tumor the size of an adult fist was found in his upper right chest wall. Rusty was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a non-Hodgkin’s type of cancer. Doctors immediately started Rusty on chemotherapy treatment – alternating one week in the hospital and one week at home for months.
It was rough going, but CHKD staff helped Rusty through it all. While in the hospital, he became friends with the nurses who took care of him in the cancer unit and he also enjoyed spending time with CHKD’s child life specialists. They are a special part of the care team, doing whatever it takes – whether playing games and videos or just talking – to normalize the patients’ experience.
Rusty is also pretty tough. He’s braved lots of days in the hospital and lots of “pokes,” meaning getting stuck with needles for blood draws and chemo treatment. But it was all worth it. He finished treatment over winter break and is now back on track.