Father-son bonding activities take on many forms like watching sports, camping and concert going. But, for Jeff and Christopher Roche, the bond they forged in a pediatric cancer patient room has been life-changing and the reason why Jeff became a Children’s Champion for the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series.
“I’m running to celebrate my son’s incredible strength and perseverance and for all the other kids who have to be so strong and so tough at an early age,” said Jeff Roche of Wooster. “I often wonder what parts of my son were forged during his time at Akron Children’s…He’s strong, very funny, intensely loyal, whip-smart and independent. He was all of these things before, but I think I notice them now with a new appreciation.”
When Jeff’s son, Christopher, was 7-and-a-half, he began complaining of a ‘bubbly’ stomach and vomiting. He came to Akron Children’s and was quickly diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer. It was a fast-growing cancer so he underwent chemotherapy before the tumor could be removed.
One year later, Christopher got sick again. An x-ray revealed a plum-size tumor on Christopher’s brain. He underwent all-day brain surgery and then radiation treatments, a full stem-cell transplant and a very aggressive course of chemotherapy.
“We trusted Akron Children’s through his entire ordeal,” said Roche. “His doctor, Stephanie Savelli, and the entire oncology team were so amazing…they were professional, gracious and empathetic.”
The intense treatments destroyed Christopher’s immune system so he was placed in isolation while his body worked to heal and strengthen.
“My wife, Cathy, and I were at the hospital all day, every day for months,” said Roche. “One of us was in his room all night, every night…The staff was very understanding and accommodating.”
Fast forward to 2018. Christopher is healthy and a recent high school graduate getting ready for his next chapter of life – a gap year and then attending the College of Wooster.
As Jeff trains for the half marathon on Sept. 29, he still finds time to bond with his son, but now with a healthier backdrop – the great outdoors.
“My son hates running, but he does love the outdoors – skiing, rock-climbing, hiking,” said Roche. “He joins me for my long runs by riding his mountain bike and carrying water and power bars for me…Those are fun days.”