In 2016, the parents of Weston Newswanger were told, “your child has cancer”. At barerly 2 years old, it is doubtful that the gravity of this news was something Weston was really able to understand, and the following months were likely filled with confusion and terror as he underwent treatment. It was painful. He lost his hair, and he surely experienced many of the unpleasant side-effects that come with battling such a fierce and sudden disease. But on September 14, 2017, Weston received his last dose of chemotherapy. He was just shy of his 3rd birthday.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a type of cancer that affects the soft tissues, such as skeletal muscle, and is the diagnosis that turned the world upside down for the Newswangers. RMS is a cancer that mostly affects young children and teens, and is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children, accounting for about 7-8% of all childhood cancers. Today, survival rates for children affected by this particular form of the disease are fairly high, around 70% in cases where the cancer has not metastasized, but that does not mean the journey to remission is a pleasant one. Treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy along with years of extensive monitoring in case of a recurrence. Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma include a lump or swelling that does not go away, bleeding in the nose, vagina or rectum, constipation, bulging eyes, and headaches.
Fast forward to 2019, and when asked what he wanted for his birthday on September 26, Weston told his mom, Amy Newswanger, “I dont [sic] need anything. I want playdough and dinosaurs to give to the children at the hospital.”
So, on October 1, 2019, and now celebrating nearly 2 years cancer-free, Weston was able to fulfill his birthday wish and, with the help of friends, family, and even some strangers who heard about his goal, he made a donation of more than 2,600 toys gathered over several weeks to Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The month of September is International Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and Weston found great joy in having the opportunity to commemorate such an important event in his life while finding a selfless way of celebrating his 5th birthday at the same time. “Weston gets so excited when he gets a package to add to the [donation] pile,” said Amy in a Facebook post updating those following along. Just before heading to the hospital with all toys collected on October 1, a final update was given regarding just how much support was offered in hopes of bringing a smile to the faces of the children facing their own personal battles with health:
“Here is the amazing breakdown,” said Amy.
Superheros: 71 + 16 capes
Plus miscellaneous items
We dropped everything off this morning and child life said this year they have already given out over 3,000 containers of play-doh.
Thank you so much for making Westons birthday donation such a huge success!”
It is through unending research that children like Weston Newswanger are able to fight their cancer diagnoses with such great success, and be granted the opportunity of choosing to share their next birthday with others through selfless acts of kindness. At GoodBulb, we seek out those who strive to do the most good, and supporting places like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, whos reasearchers work tirelessly to find cures for cancers like Rhabdomyosarcoma, is not a difficult decision to make.
*All photos in this article are credited to Amy Newswanger