His name is “Super Dan” and he can often be seen wearing a bright blue superhero cape, which is entirely appropriate when you are 7 years old and the villain you fight every day is cancer.
Just the other day, little Daniel Price proudly wore his cape again when he walked out of St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach after conquering another daylong chemotherapy session with the dreaded needle.
Every three months, since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December, Daniel has to lie face-down on his stomach while doctors insert a needle into his spine.
Daniel doesn’t feel the probe; an anesthetic puts him to sleep just before the procedure. But being pricked and probed all day by a sharp instrument is not something any kid looks forward to.
He also has to take pills, lots of them: 1½ per day and eight every Thursday for chemotherapy along with two antibiotics every Saturday and Sunday. He will need to continue that chemotherapy drill for another 18 months before doctors can determine if he is in remission.
“He’s pretty tough,’’ said his grandmother, Victoria Price. “I don’t think I could handle what he’s going through.’’
Daniel’s family has endured challenges, too, long before he was diagnosed with cancer — challenges that always seemed to surface near the Christmas holidays.
He was an infant when his mother’s Indiantown home was destroyed in a fire in December 2011. When Jessica Price, who was 19 at the time, saw sparks flashing on a wall, she grabbed Daniel and ran out the door just before the home went up in flames.
With help from the American Red Cross, the family rebuilt their lives and moved to Stuart. Daniel thrived. But late last year, his mother got concerned when he suddenly became sluggish. He looked pale, too, she recalled.
On Dec. 7, 2016, Daniel was diagnosed with A.L.L. Even when doctors told her that it’s the most common childhood leukemia, with optimistic cure rates, all Jessica could focus on was doctors telling her, “Yes, he has cancer.’’
Daniel was a frightened kid when he first arrived at St. Mary’s intensive care unit for blood transfusions and treatment. To comfort him, staff members asked him what they should call him.
He thought for a moment and said, “I want to be called Super Dan.’’
Someone donated his superhero cape, the one with the white “S” and “D” across the back.
Doctors had to insert a mediport (catheter-connected port) in his chest in December. When Daniel looked in the mirror, he told his mother the mediport made him look like “Iron Man,’’ the movie superhero whose chest is embedded with an arc reactor.
But two weeks later, the port got infected with MRSA and Daniel was rushed back to St. Mary’s on Christmas Eve.
His cancer diagnosis meant he could not attend school until it was safe for his immune system. He finally returned to Crystal Lake Elementary the week before Halloween.
Now, his family is looking forward to what doctors told them is his “cure date” — Feb. 10, 2019.
“He’s definitely a superhero for what he has gone through,’’ said his mother.
Daniel has received support from the June C. Baker Foundation to Benefit Kids with Cancer. Foundation officials believe his chances of recovery will improve in a more stable home environment.
He is surrounded by love in the small trailer he shares with his little sister, mother, grandparents and uncle. And he looks like a happy kid as he plays Xbox games and chases Flash, the family’s kitten, around the house with his sister, Isabella. For Halloween, he dressed up as Batman.
But because of Daniel’s medical needs, the family has struggled to make rent, utility and car payments, and they sometimes need help to buy groceries.
After his cancer diagnosis, Jessica bought a used minivan so she’d have reliable transportation for the 30-mile ride to St. Mary’s in West Palm Beach. She still owes money on the van, which is 18 years old and has more than 145,000 miles on it.
Hurricane Irma damaged parts of the trailer’s roof, allowing water to damage the interior walls. The Price family is worried about mold and other problems if the roof isn’t repaired.
They also need a new refrigerator and three new air-conditioner window units. But because of their limited finances, the repairs and improvements will have to wait.
Jessica, who is out of work, has wanted to put a new swing set in the yard for Daniel and Isabella. But she said that seems like a dream compared to the family’s other needs.
Despite their struggles, the Price family tries to stay focused on doing whatever they can so their Super Dan can have the best chance of recovery.
“It’s been tough on all of us,’’ said Victoria Price. “That kid is so full of life. He understands what he’s got. He understands his limitations. But he has such spirit. It’s amazing what he is doing, how he’s fighting the fight.’’
Daniel Price, a courageous 7-year-old boy who calls himself “Super Dan,” was diagnosed last year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer that kept him out of school for nearly a year and requires spinal chemotherapy treatments. He has been making progress with his recovery but his family has limited finances to make ends meet. They could use at least $10,650 to help pay for six months of recurring monthly expenses such as rent, car and insurance payments, electricity and groceries. They also need about $3,000 for one-time costs to repair parts of their roof that was damaged in Hurricane Irma (about $1,500) and to buy a new refrigerator ($1,000) and three window air-conditioning units (about $500). His mother owes about $5,000 on a 1998 minivan she bought after her son’s diagnosis to take him for treatment at a West Palm Beach hospital. She also has dreamed of buying a swing set for the family’s backyard.
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Photography by Calla Kessler / Staff
Nominated by June C. Baker Foundation for Kids with Cancer