Zoe’s Story

Breathing Through the Pain

Zoe, Age 6

In many ways, Zoe is just like most 6-year-old children. She loves to play T-ball, go swimming and roughhouse with her two older brothers, Owen and Ryan. She likes to read and draw just as much as watching her favorite TV show, “Hannah Montana.” Zoe is particularly outgoing and strong-willed for such a young age, but that isn’t the only thing that sets her apart from other kids – she is a cancer survivor.

When Zoe was 14 months old, her parents, Danielle and Dave, brought her to the doctor after they noticed she was more restless than usual. She had also developed bruises around her eyes and seemed uncomfortable putting any weight on her legs. After multiple tests, doctors found a nearly 3-inch tumor in her adrenal gland, as well as two smaller tumors in the bone marrow near her eyes, and diagnosed Zoe with Stage IV neuroblastoma.

Concerned for the emotional well-being of their whole family as well as Zoe’s health, Danielle and Dave signed their sons up for martial arts and meditation through Kids Kicking Cancer. They had heard about the program through a friend and immediately recognized the value of learning to remain calm and in control during stressful times. Danielle says, “My boys started first because Zoe was so young. It allowed them to be a part of something with other kids who were going through the same thing when their world at home was rocked.”

When Zoe turned 3, she became one of the first children to join the Little Heroes Program through Kids Kicking Cancer, where she learned the same techniques. “The exercise aspect was the first thing that really helped her because she had been isolated in the hospital,” Danielle says.

It took Zoe some time to apply the relaxation and breathing techniques to her hospital visits, but when she finally learned, it made a drastic difference. Rather than being sedated during her scans or held down while her blood was drawn, her parents and, her Kids Kicking Cancer martial arts therapy instructor, were able to help her breathe through the pain. “Now she says it doesn’t hurt and will look directly at the needle,” says Danielle.

After almost two years of chemotherapy and radiation, Zoe successfully completed treatment in January 2006 and currently shows no evidence of disease.

Danielle says the most important aspect of the program is that it includes the whole family and provided Ryan and Owen with the ability to control their bodies and minds during a time when they lost control over everything else.

Danielle concludes, “For me it’s the big picture. When you explain it to someone they say ‘Oh it’s karate.’ It is but it’s a family. When Zoe accomplishes something like getting her shot without screaming, she wanted to call Cindy [the Kids Kicking Cancer program director]. If a child gets cancer, it’s not just the child. It’s the whole family.”