Alex Schilawski of Myrtle Beach was among a group of young cancer patients from across the country who attended the Sunshine Kids Foundation’s 25th annual Texas Hill Country Adventure in the greater San Marcos, Texas, area in June.
“It was pretty fun to go away and relax and not really worry about anything for a change,” he said.
Alex, who celebrated his 17th birthday on June 29, was one of four patients selected by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to attend. MUSC also sent a pediatric nurse with them. He said it is not often that a teenager battling cancer has the opportunity to be around others who understand just what they are going through, and that trip is “one of those things” he will probably never forget.
The Sunshine Kids Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing positive group activities and emotional support for children with cancer.
Alex is a son of Casey and Shelley Schilawski. Shelley said that in 2013, when he started getting bumps on his head, she first put it off to boys being boys and getting bruises and bumps, but on Aug. 9 of that year, he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma and has been receiving chemotherapy treatments since.
Alex, a rising senior at Socastee High School, said he is “almost done” with chemotherapy and hopes his Aug. 19 treatment will be his last.
He said he had a lot of fun on the trip. They were taken good care of by many members of the San Marcos Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Police Department and other volunteers.
They went to Sea World, where they got “up close and personal” with the beluga whales, and rode down the world’s longest lazy river at Schlitterbahn. “That was really a blast,” he said of the river ride. “It was hectic and relaxing.”
When the group went to the Texas State House, they rode in a parade of sports cars with police escorts. Alex chose to ride in a McLaren. “I felt really cool,” he said.
After talking with Alex on Friday, I asked to speak with his mother. He said she was “sort of crying” and asked if I would try to cheer her up. Shelley said that’s how it has been since he was diagnosed. “He’s been my rock the whole time, and it should be the other way around. He’s been just amazing,” she said, adding that Alex has tried in various ways to help younger cancer patients getting treatment.
Alex had surgery for scoliosis in the second grade and is going to have to have that again. He is also facing surgeries for damage caused by high doses of medication.
Alex’s brother, Cody, is attending Coastal Carolina University. Alex hasn’t made up his mind what he wants to study after high school, but he is leaning toward something in the medical field.
Shelley said this experience with cancer has taught her family what is really important in life, and it is going to change their lives in a better way.
Contact PEGGY MISHOE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 365-3885.