Ben Klassen's Story

Stage 4 Cancer at 3, Science Fair Winner at 13

Ben's Diagnosis

December 8, 2000 was a day that forever changed the lives of the Klassen family. December 8, 2010 proved to be another pivotal day. During those 10 years, the Klassen family experienced a terrifying diagnosis, a range of emotions and countless acts of kindness and caring.

Back in 2000, Ben was a normal 3-year-old boy. Toward the end of the year, his mother, Sandie, noticed he was losing his color and bruising very easily. Sandie took Ben to the pediatrician. It was Dec. 8. At that appointment, his pediatrician told them to see Emad Salman, M.D., at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, immediately for additional testing.

By that afternoon, Dr. Salman and Debbie White, RN, delivered the devastating news—Ben had cancer. Worse still, he had stage 4 neuroblastoma—a cancer that attacks developing nerve cells in infants and children. Ben's cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, bones, bone marrow and other organs.

Ben was admitted to The Children's Hospital that day. The treatment was aggressive—it had to be, considering the severity of his disease. Hopes were high for Ben, but expectations were low.

But, Ben is strong.

Ben's Treatment

Dr. Salman recalls a particularly powerful moment when Ben woke up from a four-hour surgery to remove a massive tumor on his adrenal gland.

"He had tubes up his nose, so when I asked him how he felt, he gave me a thumbs up," Dr. Salman says. "Here was this 3-year-old little boy on the brink of death, just waking up from a risky surgery, and he had no complaints; just a thumbs up. That moment put everything into perspective for me."

Throughout the months and years after his diagnosis, Ben progressed from daily appointments with Dr. Salman to once a week, once a month, once every three months, and once every six months, to once a year appointments.

A New Beginning

In 2007, Dr. Salman called the Klassen's to give them the news that Ben was cured.

On Dec. 8, 2010, Ben visited his nurses and doctors at The Children's Hospital to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his diagnosis. At 13 years old, Ben's future is bright. He plays roller hockey, runs cross country and he won first place at the Bonita Springs Charter School science fair for his project on the effects of caffeine consumption on a person's ability to type accurately.

The Klassen family says that Ben's journey helped them focus on the things that matter in life—family, community, faith, hope, love, kindness, gratitude and best of all, good health.