Family channels grief into force for good

Felix receiving treatment in 2019.

In 2019, the Lubin family suffered an unthinkable loss.

After battling cancer for two years, enduring painful and difficult treatments, 9-year-old Felix Lubin succumbed to neuroblastoma.

Born and raised in the Cayman Islands, the young boy had loved the outdoors, playing soccer, surfing on the waves, fishing, and spending time with his sister, Cleo. Like many children that grow up in the Caribbean, he became a master of climbing trees, cracking open coconuts, and catching lobster when they were in season. It was an idyllic life, until Felix’s parents, Michael and Kyle, got the devastating diagnosis in 2017 that would change their lives forever.

The Lubin family on 10 May, 2018 (Felix’s 8th birthday). From left, Cleo, Kyle, Michael and Felix. This was Felix’s first trip back to Cayman since being emergency lifted to Miami, Florida, in 2017.

Losing a child is almost impossible for any family to comprehend. As the Lubins grieved the loss of their little boy, they decided that they would make it their mission to do whatever they could to save others from the same unbearable pain.

They are therefore raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Felix was treated during the latter half of his battle with the disease. The Parkway Run & Walk, which is usually held in Philadelphia, was started in 1998 with 300 runners. That number has grown over time to 10,000 participants, with over US$15 million raised for pediatric research and care.

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The event is all-virtual this year, due to COVID concerns, and so the family has set up a donation page in Felix’s name online, with supporters recording miles walked and run on the beach, on the road, in the gym and anywhere else they can add to the overall distance covered. The page’s fundraising goal is to reach at least $33,333 by Saturday, 25 Sept., which is when the site will be closed to further donations.

Felix and his sister, Cleo, catching sprats in 2017, one month before he fell ill.

Michael and Kyle want people to become more aware of childhood cancers, and why it is so important that facilities such as CHOP get the funding they need.

“Neuroblastoma is the most common childhood cancer and, unfortunately, we know that another Cayman child will receive the same diagnosis that Felix did,” Michael said. “We do not want anyone else to experience the heartbreak we have and we feel it is critical that we facilitate the research that will give that child the best possible chance of survival.

“That research is being conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which was named the #1 pediatric oncology program in the US by U.S. News & World Report. Felix endured six rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, extensive tumor resection surgery, two bone marrow transplants, months of radiation, painful immunotherapy and extensive experimental pharmaceutical interventions. No child should have to endure that regime and we can do better.”

Felix playing on Seven Mile Beach, a week before his diagnosis.

Michael said that CHOP administered “cutting edge rescue therapies” that extended Felix’s life after the “standard of care” treatment he received in Miami failed to cure him.

“As a result of his doctors’ efforts, we enjoyed months more of precious time with our son,” Kyle said.

“Dr. Mosse and Dr. Maris at CHOP are currently leading an international team trying to develop a pharmaceutical treatment to address MYCN amplification, a genetic marker in neuroblastoma that is indicative of a very poor prognosis,” Michael said. “Developing a treatment for MYCN amplification is a ‘holy grail’ of neuroblastoma research and they need additional funding to continue their critical work.”

For those in Cayman wondering why it would be important to fund a stateside facility such as CHOP, Michael explained that some local diagnoses will require treatment overseas.

Felix loved lobster season, and always headed out on 1 Dec. to try his luck.

“We believe the support that the [local] community has shown to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will ultimately benefit other Cayman children facing critical diagnoses that require highly specialised care not available on island. Last year, we raised $58,000 in Felix’s honour, which was the second highest team donation,” he said, adding that forging a relationship with a world-class pediatric facility was vital for those impacted by childhood cancer in the future.

“Despite what Felix was going through, he always reminded us how fortunate we were: we had family and friends to support us and access to cutting-edge medicine,” Kyle said. “He was the consummate island boy that embraced everything we all love about Cayman and we feel this is the best way to honour his memory.”

|To donate to the fundraiser, visit here. All donations must be made by Saturday, 25 Sept. More information about the Parkway Run & Walk, parkway.chop.edu.

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