In November 2018, bruises started appearing all over 22-month-old Kenzo’s body.
According to his mother, Katrina Del Rosario-Cruz, Kenzo was coughing and would have night sweats that soaked his bed.
“We consulted with his pediatrician and he was given medicine for cough, and then the bruises started to multiply on his leg and on his back followed by rashes on the face,” Del Rosario-Cruz said. “That’s when we started thinking this is not normal anymore.”
Kenzo was so pale at this point, he was often crying, and dark circles started forming under his eyes from all the sleepless nights. On Nov. 24 that year, Del Rosario-Cruz and husband Naz brought Kenzo to their pediatrician at St. Luke’s, Bonifacio Global City.
“But the schedule was full, so we went straight to the emergency room,” she says. “The first thing they did was run some blood work. There was something wrong with the results, according to the doctor. But she was pretty reassuring and said that it could be Kenzo’s body overreacting to an infection he had, that’s why his results were out of range.”
They weren’t expecting to get admitted that night. The hematologist came and announced himself to be an oncologist as well.
“The word leukemia was thrown around,” she says. “Pero at the time, I was in denial.” She asked the doctor if it was possibly just an infection that could be treated with medicine.
Dr. Allan Robert Racho, whom the mom described as very reassuring and calm, suggested that they do a bone marrow biopsy to be sure. The official diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The chemotherapy protocol for Kenzo would be three years.
Kenzo was brought in for port-a-cath, a device inserted under the skin on the right side of the chest to deliver chemo drugs.
On October 2021, Kenzo graduated from chemo and is now in remission, with his oncology team closely monitoring his progress. Del Rosario-Cruz explains that it would take five years from the date of diagnosis to see if a child with acute leukemia has been cured.
Kenzo’s brave fight against leukemia inspired the mom to write a book “about his three-year journey to remission and the many ways he used his love for animals and dinosaurs to carry himself toward recovery.”
“I Am Kenzo Brave” was launched recently as part of the Books-and-Brunch series by Rafael’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant at the Newport Mall in Pasay City, with Del Rosario-Cruz and illustrator Pio Tendero in attendance to sign copies of the book.
Bravery and awareness
Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ “My Many Colored Days,” it aims to inspire bravery and spread awareness on childhood cancer.
In his blurb, author and historian Charles Avila writes, “It is the true story of a lad who explains chemotherapy and gloom, sloth and dizzy days, treatment and resurrection with no more chemo.”
“When he got sick, we were hoping that he was too young to understand what was going on,” Del Rosario-Cruz says. “And for the most part of it, he was. But what really stuck with him was that it was painful. So until now, when we go monthly for the blood work, the trauma is there—in the hospital they call it needle trauma. Seeing one freaks him out.”
Nevertheless, she is thankful that Kenzo didn’t lose his hair during the years of chemotherapy and describes him as a happy and healthy kid who is now experiencing the social interactions, meeting and playing with other kids, which he enjoys along with older brother Theo.
Half of the sales of the book “I Am Kenzo Brave” will be used in a continuing fundraiser to help children with cancer via Kythe Foundation. Del Rosario-Cruz and her team have also produced zip-atops, a shirt that is specifically useful for children with port-a-cath insertions. It will be distributed to pediatric cancer wards across the country. —Contributed INQ
The book is available at @iamkenzobrave on Instagram; email email@example.com.