Wood County father and son have matching haircuts and a passion for supporting others.
Alex Castillio, 8, of Mineola, has been cancer-free for a year, and shaved his head a second time last week to help raise money to help others with cancer at the Kid’s Cancer Buzz Off, which benefits the childhood cancer foundation One Mission.
Funds will benefit children with cancer and blood disorders receiving care at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
“I never thought it would be my kid, and I never cared about donating,” said Alex’s father Markus Castillio, 25, of Grand Saline. “Now everywhere you turn, someone, somewhere needs help, and when it comes to kids with cancer, no matter what or where it is, we are going to try to participate and do anything we can to show support.”
“It’s a life-changing experience, and it really opens your eyes to those who are struggling,” he said.
Alex started feeling lethargic in the winter of 2012, but his parents didn’t think anything was seriously wrong until after he was selected for his all-star T-ball team, said Markus Castillio, of Grand Saline.
“A few weeks after the season, he stared favoring his right hand and foot, (and started) walking pigeon toed,” Markus Castillio said.
A brain scan found a cancerous tumor the size of a bean wrapping around his thalamus, which helps control nerves and mobility.
The tumor was inoperable because of its location, but after a round of chemotherapy and radiation, Alex’s brain scans are clear, his father said.
Markus Castillio said no parent is ever prepared for that kind of news, but Alex was positive and upbeat through it all.
“I found out over the phone…” he said. “I sat in the driveway for 30 minutes to an hour, bawling and screaming.
“As a parent, you don’t know what to do or what can you do. There is nothing you can do besides hope for the best because you are expecting the worst.”
Alex is still receiving therapy for nerve damage cause by the tumor, but the experience has not dimmed his love of life, and he is back to normal activities and competing in sports, Markus Castillio said.
“He’s stronger than I ever could be,” he said. “I can’t imagine going through something like that. ... He went through it like a true champ, and I want the other families to know we are here to support them through whatever they go through because the support we received was tremendous.”
The father-son team will continue to raise money until October. Donations in their name can be made under the “sponsor a Buzzee” tab at www.buzzforkids.org/BuzzOff/fund_mvp.html