Family stays resilient through pediatric leukemia treatment
Cael Su Soto was an active, happy young boy when his parents, Yuli and Martin, first noticed him limping in September 2021, as a two-and-a-half-year-old in daycare. While he didn’t express any pain or have any other symptoms, Yuli knew something was off, and decided to take her son to urgent care.
“The limping was getting worse and worse, and we didn’t know what was happening or if he had an infection,” Yuli recalls. “We went to urgent care on a Saturday, but we weren’t happy with the answers, so we decided to go to the emergency room. We thought it would take a little while and we’d be back home, but it wasn’t like that.”
At the hospital, on Sunday, the doctors did physical examinations and found nothing, but spotted something curious on a blood draw. They asked the family to stay overnight for more tests, and the next day, the doctors and the family discovered Cael had leukemia.
“The only question I asked the nurse, crying, was if there was a cure or not,” Yuli shares. “She told me there was, but it would take a while. We cried a lot and wondered, ‘why us?’ That day changed everything in our lives.”
“It’s hard to explain how tired and terrified and empty you feel in the weeks after the diagnosis,” she says. “But our hope helps us to believe in a better tomorrow. Hope is the last thing that should be lost.”
Yuli was recommended to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by a friend, and by Thursday, Cael was admitted and began treatment. The family spent 24 days in the hospital before Cael was ready to go home and begin outpatient treatment at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, where they’ve been regulars since the first week October.
While Yuli has been challenged by Cael’s diagnosis and the rollercoaster it’s put her family on, she is happy with Cael’s treatment and the way he has weathered the storm.
“When your child is sick, the whole family is sick. The Jimmy Fund Clinic staff care so much about the children and the parents, too,” she says. “Cael loves going to the clinic and playing with stickers and Play-Doh. He speaks Spanish most of the time and tries to have conversations with his nurses in Spanish. There are so many Spanish-speaking families there—no matter the language, you know your child will be taken care of the right way.”
Cael is continuing treatment, but Yuli and Martin are looking forward to adjusting to their new normal and building a life after cancer—one that includes Cael’s new dream to become a doctor for kids like him.
“Cael is so strong and resilient,” Yuli says. “When you see him playing and happy, he gives us the strength to keep going through all this treatment.”
Cael will be playing on a bigger stage this June—taking the field as part of John Hancock Fenway Fantasy Day, where patients of all ages have a chance to play on-field at Fenway Park and live out their baseball dreams. Yuli and Martin will be right beside him, helping him run the bases and have a fun day away from treatment.
“We are so happy and thankful to be part of this,” she says. “This event helps get children and families distracted from the routine we have every day in the hospital. It helps us realize how happy we are to be treated where we are.”
“Cael is our true love and everything for us—his beautiful smile gives us strength to endure difficult times,” Yuli continues. “We will continue strong as a family until this long journey will end and start a new chapter in our new normal live, for sure!”
Help support patients like Cael by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.