Mother of son with rare cancer moves from CA to Brooklyn to seek treatment

Posted: Updated:
BROOKLYN -

About 13 months ago, a little boy in Southern California was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer resulting in his mom moving their family all the way to Brooklyn for treatment.

Nick Zalyan is like any other 5-year-old, playing with his siblings, eating dinner with family and going to the playground after school, but doing frequent blood draws is something most other kids don't have to do.

Being diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer at stage four in May of 2018, the then 4-year-old started treatment immediately at a local hospital in Southern California. His mom Atianna says she was distraught.

"It felt like my world ended," says Atianna.

Those fears were made worse when they discovered how rare neuroblastoma is. Only 700 children a year are diagnosed with the cancer that develops in the nervous system

"Staying in that hospital where we were, I was going to have to part with him at some point which I wasn't willing to do," says Atianna.

So, she found the only facility in the country with a dedicated neuroblastoma team, Memorial Sloan Kettering, which was 3,000 miles away.

"I was like ‘of course we have to go and help him,’" she says.

The whole family moved to Atianna's native Brooklyn in August.

"I rented an apartment over Skype. I was doing this in the hallway of a hospital," says Atianna.

Nick headed to MSK just four days after touching down in New York, meeting with doctors immediately.

"Back then, the outlook for most common form of neuroblastoma-high risk, was zero, I mean no one survived," says Dr. Kushner, who started at the hospital 30 years ago.

But today, clinical trials offer hope, even though they mean frequent hospital visits.

Atianna says that despite seven rounds of chemo, countless tests and an 11-hour surgery to remove the tumors, Nick always kept a smile on his face.

All the positivity kept Atianna going just before getting the call Nick was in remission right before New Year’s.

"Oh my god, I bursted into tears, that was the beginning of my life again because it felt like the world had come to an end for a while," says Atianna.

Nick is also ready for the rest of his life

"When I grow up, I’m going to be a neural doctor, so I can save people from cancer," says Nick.

His mom says she is grateful he'll have that opportunity.

"He's just the most spectacular, brave human being I’ve ever met," says Atianna.

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