CLARK, NJ — Connor Chin, 12, of Clark was treated like a celebrity when he returned to his sixth grade class at Carl H. Kumpf Middle School after battling cancer.
More than 100 students were at the school ceremony to welcome the 12-year-old back to classes on Wednesday, June 7. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last summer and underwent treatment for it at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital for most of the year. Now, free of cancer, he plans to finish school and start seventh grade in the fall.
“My classmates made posters and signs for me,” Connor told LocalSource over the phone on June 10. “The media came, too, which made me feel like a celebrity. I felt very welcome by my friends. It was great to see them and my teachers.”
During the past year, Connor was homeschooled between his treatments. Three teachers tutored him during his intense chemotherapy, which spanned 10 weeks. He also had a knee and partial femur replacement in October, followed by 20 more weeks of chemotherapy.
“It all started after Connor fell on Mother’s Day last year,” Lisa Chin, Connor’s mother, told LocalSource in a June 10 email. “The pain persisted for weeks until we took him to the doctor in July and he was diagnosed. We were told he had a tumor in his leg and we hoped it was just an infection. When he was finally diagnosed, we were devastated. Once we figured out a game plan, we decided to go to Sloan Kettering Memorial to begin treatment. We wanted to make sure he got the best treatment. We hoped to win this battle and that’s what we feel we have accomplished.”
The family, which also includes Connor’s father, Cesar, and older sister, Elizabeth, weren’t always so optimistic.
“I was very scared in the beginning,” Connor said. “I learned that life is short and to spend as much time as possible with friends and family. The doctors who work with kids are great. My mom helped me get through the treatment because she’s nice and always positive. I also played a lot of video games to keep my mind occupied.”
His mother also noted how much Connor has grown since the beginning of his battle. She describes her son as “smart, but lighthearted and fun,” with a tendency to be silly at times, all of which contributed to his success overcoming his illness.
“It’s been a rough year,” she said. “Connor has matured so much. Even though he still loves video games, he’s grown up a lot. He’s a super-strong, brave kid. Even when he was tired and sick, he remained positive and motivated to get better. It’s not easy, but medicine is so advanced and there are a lot of options. It’s important to keep a positive outlook, and we pray every night to give us hope.”
In addition to playing video games, Connor enjoys drawing superheroes. He’s looking forward to exploring some new hobbies, too, such as archery, golf and tai chi. He’s also been chosen to serve as a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Ambassador.
Connor immediately jumped at the opportunity.
“I want to help other children with cancer,” he said.
And Lisa Chin now sees her son as a superhero in his own right.
“He’s a huge trooper and champ. He gave me strength this year. Even when he was sick and needed treatment, we’d drive into New York City and pull over for him to vomit, because the anti-nausea medication didn’t always work, (and) he’d tell me he’s going to get better.
“It made me feel better that he was OK. He’s a terrific kid.”