‘Christmas miracle’ for teen cancer survivor

Latest tests clear Derron Hernandez of cancer; heading home next month

“He is cancer free.”

Those were the words of Marla Hernandez last weekend as she shared the news of her son Derron’s latest diagnosis.

She said her and her family’s prayers were answered – prayers they had been holding onto since the 13-year-old was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma earlier this year.

A mass found in Derron’s neck left him partially paralysed, but through sheer will, he can now walk.

For the Clifton Hunter High School teen and his mother, the all-clear report could not have come at a better time.

“It’s a Christmas miracle, especially in the middle of this pandemic where so many people lost their loved ones and it’s so sad for many people. I’m very blessed to know that I didn’t have to cry [over] the loss of my son,” Hernandez told the Cayman Compass via a Zoom video call from Maryland, where Derron had been receiving treatment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Christmas this year is very special for teenager Derron Hernandez.

With Christmas days away, Derron said the gift of being cancer-free topped his list.

“I don’t really know how to describe it,” he said.

“It just feels like a great weight that has been lifted off me … I am happy just being able to go back soon. It all makes me feel grateful and thankful to God for helping us through this and not making me falter and giving me the strength to do it.”

Battle not over 

While Derron was given the green light to return to Cayman, he and his mother will not be coming home until January as some final checks need to be carried out.

He will also have to return to Johns Hopkins every three months for the next five years to make sure all remains well.

Hernandez said she was grateful.

“It was awesome. It was like, ‘Wow, this is a miracle.’ It was very exciting.

“It’s the best news ever, especially when you think you’re going to lose your child and God is just there and helps you through this process,” she said.

Hearing the doctors saying her son was doing well and could go home was emotional, she said.

Seeing Derron ring the bell in the cancer ward to signify his cancer-free status was a moment Hernandez will always remember.

“He is an inspiration for me. I think about it and I say, ‘Well, I don’t think I would ever feel weak anymore in my life because Derron is very strong. Having seen all of what he has been through makes me feel like there’s nothing that can defeat me anymore. There’s nothing that can make me feel like I’m weak,” she said.

Thankful to God

Even though he is just 13, Derron said he is happy to be able to say he has ended a bad period in his life.

“At first [when I heard the news], it took a second to kick in, but when it did, I felt this rush of excitement and I just started smiling. I cried a bit because it was so exciting that I don’t have to go through this ever again in my life and I’ll finish this chapter of my life,” he said.

Derron said the experience has changed him.

“I went through a lot, but I didn’t go through as bad as I could have and that is why I am thankful to God, because I had strength through all this. I saw other kids at the hospital [who] were crying because of how weak they felt, and it just made me feel bad sometimes,” he said.

Derron is looking forward to coming home and seeing his friends and family again.

He has a special message for those who may be facing health struggles of their own, especially at this time of year:

“Just keep trying and keep believing that they can make it… no matter what. Just try not to dwell on the past and keep looking forward and just build up the courage to go forward even by a little bit by bit,” he said.

“Just believe in God that you’ll make it through because that really changes a lot.”

His mother said she was grateful for all the love and support shown to her family this year, especially from the doctors and the nurses, as well as the kids at Clifton Hunter, who raised $9,600 for Derron at a head-shave event in October.

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