November 2022 Hero of the Month: Mateo

Diagnosis: Stage 3 Wilms Tumour (nephroblastoma) with recurrence 

Age at Diagnosis: 8 years old, then again at 9 years old.

“You (Childhood Cancer Canada) are doing such important work. Please continue your wonderful mission and shedding light on childhood cancer,” says Mateo’s mom Erin Jones.  “Thanks for making kids feel special and making them smile.” 
At Childhood Cancer Canada (CCC), we smile when children, like Mateo and their families, smile.  This is why Mateo is our hero of the month.  Mateo was 8 when he was diagnosed with Wilms Tumour.  From Whitby, ON, Mateo is a happy, energetic, and resilient boy who loves to explore technology.  At home and school, he finds time to undertake experiments – especially when it involves electronics.  And, when outdoors, his favourite activities are biking, riding his scooter, swimming, and boat rides with his siblings. 
October 2018 will be a time Mateo and his family will never forget. On a fall day, after an injury, Mateo was experiencing intense pain, nausea, and vomiting. Erin describes these days “as moments and dates which our burned in our memories forever.”  Erin immediately took Mateo to the hospital, but he was not officially diagnosed, for what was causing his pain, for almost three months. In December, while at an appointment at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Mateo was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Wilms Tumour (also known as nephroblastoma) since the cancer cells had spread throughout his body.


Simply put, Erin says, “This was the worst moment of our lives. For the next few years, we had to watch our son suffer -- as well as his siblings -- because they were so worried about their brother. It felt like a bad dream.” 
Mateo’s treatment was a challenge no child should experience.  Shortly after his diagnosis, he had a nephrectomy operation to remove the affected kidney and have a port insertion.  On Christmas Eve, his family received confirmation of malignancy.  Then in January 2019, Mateo began his chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His family thought things were looking promising in August 2019 when his port was removed; however, during a routine follow-up in April 2020, a new tumour was discovered.  This recurrence meant for Mateo the remainder of the year was spent in intense treatment, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to remove the tumour. All of this occurred when Covid19 was at its worst, so he was never allowed any visitors. He and his mom practically lived at the hospital during his several months of treatment. Although his treatment was finished in December, Mateo was then diagnosed with Stage 2 kidney disease as his remaining kidney was injured by the chemo and radiation. He is strong and thriving -- and his one kidney is now doing the work of two.
In addition to the support from Mateo’s medical team and Childhood Cancer Canada, Mateo’s parents are extremely grateful for the support their family received from their community, Mateo’s school, family, friends – and even strangers who showed and continue to show their “outpouring of love and support.”  For Erin and her family, “It has been truly moving and humbling.  We are forever grateful.” 

This includes the vitally important work being done by Childhood Cancer Canada including supporting childhood cancer research, which CCC has contributed more than $10M since 2000. It is a very small percentage, approximately 7%, of overall cancer research funds which ends up allocated to childhood cancer, so every single dollar contributed directly to childhood cancer research makes a difference. Since 2020, CCC has also been supporting families through its Emergency Fund, a financial program available to patients and families in Canada who have a child with cancer and require some financial assistance. For approved applicants, like the Jones Family, $250 is provided per family/patient as a one-time grant. Since 2020, the Childhood Cancer Canada Emergency Fund has supported 595 families.  
We all believe Mateo is more than a survivor – he is a real hero and the inspiration he shares with his family and friends is magical. Like many families, Erin believes Mateo would not have fared as well as he did if it were not for the research conducted over the past 50 years, to bring current health/treatment protocols to the effectiveness they are at today. CCC raises awareness about childhood cancer, which is so important in helping bring light to the vast financial difficulties families can endure during treatment, as well as other ways individuals can help children with cancer. 
Although he is still frequently at the hospital for extensive follow-ups, Mateo is home with his family exploring electronic adventures and the outdoors. And, when he gets hungry, Mateo is always looking for his favourite foods including pizza, chicken, mama’s chili, and apples. 


Every month we will honour a different Hero of the Month. If you would like to share your Hero’s story, please reach out to [email protected].