The Kaufman Family Story
The Justin Kaufman Family

In 1988, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was only 5 years old, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. My parents told me that I was very sick, and I could see the tears coming from my whole family. Still I remained strong through many bad days, caused by what the treatments were doing to my body.

I received most of my chemotherapy treatments at the Penn State Children’s Hospital. My family was informed that I would need a bone marrow transplant (BMT) to survive. So with that, the search was on for a donor. My older sister Kimberly was a perfect match in blood, which is like a needle in a haystack to find. At the time, Hershey wasn't doing BMTs and the closest hospital was the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP). After meeting with them and once I was in further enough in remission, I was taken to Philadelphia. There, I received more chemotherapy and total body radiation to prepare for the transplant. In February of 1989, my sister donated her bone marrow to me; for me, it was just like another blood transfusion. The doctors told me that I would not survive another transplant if I relapsed.

Life continued, and I went back to school being as normal of a 7-year-old as possible. In 1994, I developed a skin recurrence, which later led to another diagnosis of Leukemia. It was the same form which I had when I was younger. Being 11 years old, I understood what was going on, and knew that I had to remain strong.

I knew that treatments were very aggressive, so I accepted it and did my best to remain positive. I can remember that there were times when I just wanted to give up and was so tired of being sick. In these moments, my friends and family were there to support me. At this point, treatment choices became slim, so we agreed to do a trial chemotherapy. This was a trial supported by Four Diamonds. I can specifically remember that the chemo was the color blue. Needless to say, it worked and once I was healthy enough, I was sent for another bone marrow transplant

Again I went to Philadelphia, where I received more chemotherapy. My sister Kimberly donated her bone marrow to me again and in February of 1995, I had my second bone marrow transplant. I missed a lot of middle school in the process, but I was tutored and never fell behind. When I went back to school in Eighth grade, I had some limitations.

Being a kid with cancer, I had opportunity to attend a camp for kids with cancer, Camp Can Do. I attended Camp Can Do for 9 years of my life. Graduation from that camp was special because it meant you were 5 years off treatment. I became a counselor at that same camp in 2005. It wasn’t until 2008 when I met a boy named Brandon, who was 9 years old, that I felt the real impact of Camp Can Do. He had an aggressive form of cancer called Neuroblastoma. Brandon knew how much he was sick, but never let that show. He was a first-time camper; I never knew how one person could make such an impact on my life, but God knew. I still remember so much from that week of camp. Brandon became an angel on Oct 6, 2008. Brandon’s passing really impacted me, because we became good friends at camp. After meeting him, I become part of his family. His parents have been a strength in my life, and the love they have shown even after losing their son to cancer is unfathomable. It brings me to tears knowing how they have accepted me into their family. I love spending time with them, and it fills me with joy. My only wish is I had an opportunity to know Brandon longer. Through meeting Brandon’s family, I have had opportunities to become close friends to other families who have also lost their children. My heart aches because I can’t fathom what these families have gone through, since I have survived, but I believe that we have been placed in each other's lives for a reason. Brandon's family encouraged me to attend THON, so in 2009, I attended my first THON. Words can't fully express how impacted I was by THON that year. The next year I applied to be a part of the Adopt-A-Family program, and I was adopted by Club Cross Country in November of 2009! Throughout the years I have become the Team Dad, and I look forward to supporting all of Club Cross Country this year!

I am so thankful for the Four Diamonds because without them, I know my family would still be trying to figure out how to pay for everything. Many of the drugs used for my treatment were still experimental at the time, as my treatment helped in the Four Diamonds research. As of February 2020, I celebrated 25 years with NO EVIDENCE of CANCER with my Club Cross Country family!