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Reason for Race Is Clear: Helping Kids Fight Cancer

Three area children who have been battling childhood cancers will be the stars of this year’s  Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run and Walk for Leukemia. They and their families will be aided by the funds raised at this year’s race.

Hayden Hughes of Moundsville is the 9-year-old son of Tyler and Samantha Hughes. Just a year ago, Hayden was always an energetic boy who played multiple sports and was active in his school activities at Washington Lands Elementary School.

His father recalls how Hayden had just finished playing football after school and came home complaining of a belly ache.

“I told my wife that if he still complained in the morning I would take him to the doctor. Well by morning he was hurting so much I had to carry him to the car. That’s how fast this happened,” Tyler said.

It turned out that Hayden was suffering from a rare Wilms’ tumor, diagnosed as stage three. Treatment, including chemotherapy, started right away. He finished his chemo in December and has bounced back to be an active, healthy child again, according to his father.

“He had a scan and he’s clear right now and playing baseball with the All Stars,” Tyler said.

However, the family will continue to make trips to Pittsburgh where he has been treated, and will require checkups every three months for two years.

If after two years he remains clear of cancer, then the appointments only will be required every six months.

On July 15, he was undergoing an examination by a cardiologist in Pittsburgh because chemotherapy often has effects on the heart. For now, his parents are counting their blessings.

Hayden, who will be in the third grade this school year, has a brother Nathan, 6, and a sister, Lauren, 7 months.

Madelina Grace DeLuca is a spunky 3 1/2-year-old from Moon Township, Pa. She is the daughter of Kristen and Christopher DeLuca. A big sister Gianna completes the family.

Madelina was just a toddler when she began to experience stomach pain and showed signs of bruising on her legs and other areas of her body.

Her parents sought medical answers and learned the news that drops parents to their knees.

On Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, Madelina was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This type of cancer required immediate treatment.

She began four, one-month stays at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh where she underwent  chemotherapy.

As one might imagine, this life-changing experience affected everyone, although Madelina’s parents did everything possible to maintain a familiar routine at home for Gianna.

Kristen is a teacher at Montour High School and Christopher is in medical supply sales.

“I took time off work but we made sure someone was always there for Gianna, too,” Kristen explained. “We spent a lot of time at Children’s and now she has been in remission for 15 months.”

As of August, Madelina will make return visits to her doctors for checkups and blood work every three months. Prior to that it was every month.

The DeLuca family was the recipients of a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World and had a great time. Because Madelina was not allowed in a swimming pool immediately after her treatment, her family is now playing catch-up on outdoor activities and some regional road trips. They recently visited the American Girl store and Madelina was happy with her new doll.

Madelina is getting reading to start preschool this year.

Her parents said they are grateful for Ron Green for his concern for their daughter and the whole family.

“He’s been very kind and generous and he is always checking up on Madelina. He goes non-stop.”

In Wheeling, Hines Rotriga is a feisty 4-year-old who’s enjoying his current NED status. NED means “no sign of disease,” and good news for the preschooler and his parents.

Hines, the son of Debbie and Kevin Rotriga, has been battling cancer since he was a toddler. His mother said Hines was showing signs of ear pain and then one side of his face began to droop. A quick trip to the hospital and extensive tests and  scans revealed a mass in his head, affecting a nerve behind his ear. The biopsy showed it was       cancer.

Chemotherapy treatment began immediately with trips to New York and Morgantown. While treatment proved effective, it was temporary as relapses occurred with tumors found in Hines’ abdomen, then right shoulder and right hip.

More treatment and trips to hospitals over many months have brought Hines to today’s condition of no sign of disease.

“He is not showing any disease but he is still considered to have cancer because his body can make cancer cells. He is now taking oral chemo treatments in a pill and he’s doing fairly well with that,” Debbie said.

The Rotriga family has been enjoying more time at home rather than taking a vacation this year due to Hines’ current treatment which is something new for him.

“Don’t get me wrong, Hines is doing boy stuff, playing outside and going swimming, things he couldn’t do when he was sick. He’s really into Hot Wheels and he likes super heroes, too,” Debbie said. “We just didn’t want to be away from this area when he started his oral chemo.”

Hines will undergo body scans every three months, starting in September and weekly trips to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for blood work. His parents are hoping and praying for continued good news.

In the meantime, they are all looking forward to Hines interacting with children his own age in preschool at St. Michael School this fall.

“He’s only been around a group of kids about a handful of times, other than with kids in the hospitals. He’s excited about school,” Debbie said. “We are just so grateful to the way the community has come out and supported and helped us. And Ron (Green) is wonderful how he looks after us and is concerned about Hines. There are not enough words to thank everyone.”

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