When you have five kids under the age of 10 you’re pretty much always dealing with a variety of bumps and bruises, coughs and colds, and the ever-popular stomach virus. Invariably, one of these tends to surface in the days before your family vacation, which was the case when the Bowen family was headed to Disney seven years ago. Marina, who along with her twin brother Chad was not quite two, was feeling under the weather. Thinking it might be strep, her mom Maria was able to secure a prescription for antibiotics and the family left for their trip. Maria wasn’t even concerned about the small lump on Marina’s neck but when it was still there upon their return she took her in to see the doctor. No one could have guessed the resulting diagnosis in a child so young: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Even the doctors at Columbia were a bit dumbfounded.

Fortunately, after being treated with chemotherapy followed by radiation Marina’s cancer went into remission and life resumed with some sense of normalcy until a fall sent her back to the ER where the examination revealed another lump, this time on the other side of her neck. The family breathed a collective sigh of relief when it turned out to be benign. Yet the lump continued to grow which concerned her doctors enough to have it re-tested a few months later – this time the results were devastating. The cancer was back. Again her doctors were puzzled because when this type of cancer reoccurs, it typically does so in the same area, which was not the case with Marina. Once again the plan called for chemotherapy to be followed by radiation. However, when the chemotherapy did not yield the expected results doctors knew they were dealing with something more complex and discovered Marina’s cancer was the result of a genetic mutation and her best treatment option was a bone marrow transplant. The only family member who was a match was her twin brother Chad.

The transplant went well but what followed was a series of complications — one of which was a life-threatening fungus from which young patients often die. Marina spent almost a whole year in the hospital and during that time her family nearly fell apart. Her siblings were having a hard time understanding the dramatic changes to their daily routine. Her parents were struggling to be there for all of their children but with Marina being so critically ill it was hard to not focus on her needs first.

In the midst of it all The Danny Fund was there to help alleviate some of the burden. According to Maria, “By simply taking a handful of financial concerns off of our plate when there was so much else to think about, The Danny Fund gave us the breathing room to tackle a few of our more pressing worries. We are so appreciative of their assistance and grateful to be a part of The Danny Fund family. Our big family got a little bigger the day they adopted us into theirs.”

Life is somewhat back to normal now. Marina is once again in remission and continues to be monitored. As recently as this past summer she was getting special treatments to help keep her immune system in check, as she is now more prone to infection. But that hasn’t stopped her from doing all the things you’d expect a nine-year old to be doing: school, dance, basketball. She wants to do what everyone else is doing – and The Danny Fund is proud to have played a small part in making that possible.

“Being adopted into The Danny Fund family gave our family
that little extra ooomph to get through an extremely challenging time.”
– Maria, Marina’s Mom