Cancer Survivor, 8, Saved by Brother, Pays It Forward

Rina Sy, 8, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia at age 5, and her little brother, Patrick, came to her rescue

An 8-year-old cancer survivor in San Diego whose life was saved by her little brother is now leading her own charge in the fight against childhood cancer.

On Mother’s Day 2013, at the age of just 5, Rancho Penasquitos resident Rina Sy was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia – Acute Lymphoblast Leukemia, Philadelphia Chromosome.

Her mother, Marianne Sy, said the family immediately began exploring bone marrow transplant options for Rina’s treatment, checking the compatibility of loved ones. Chances were slim, Sy said – a one in four chance that someone would be Rina’s match.

The answer was right before their eyes: Rina’s little brother, Patrick, turned out to be her perfect bone marrow match.

The family moved forward with the transplant. Since then, Marianne said her daughter has been cancer-free.

“He was that second chance at life for Rina, to help save her life,” Marianne told NBC 7. “As parents, we would do anything for our kids. We had no idea Patrick would be able to give Rina that gift of life – beyond what any parent could give their children.”

Though cancer-free for more than two years and running, Marianne said Rina continues to receive medical check-ups every three months – something she’ll likely need to do for the rest of her life.

Today, the family organizes fundraising efforts in support of research for childhood cancer, hoping every child has a chance to find their superhero, as Rina did. Those efforts are chronicled on their family blog, “Resilient Rina.”

The family’s latest project was a fundraiser dubbed “Go Gold,” held at Rina’s school Friday as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. During the event, everyone was invited to make donations in little boxes hand-wrapped in gold paper by Rina and her family.

The slogan for the gold box movement was, “Gold is the new pink – fight like a kid!”

“There is hope, for the rest of the lives of these kids and [Rina] to know that there will be a cure someday for childhood cancer,” Marianne said at the event.

Students and faculty were all dressed in gold for the fundraiser and special assembly at the school,
some wearing pins that read, “I Wear Gold for Rina.”

Fittingly, Patrick – Rina’s real-life superhero – was decked out in a gold cape.

Rina showed off his cape and hugged him tight, grateful for her brother and grateful for her chance at long, happy, healthy life ahead.

Marianne said she was overwhelmed by the support from the school principal, PTA, students and parents, and said it fuels the family’s passion to pay it forward and find ways to help fellow families impacted by childhood cancer.

You can follow their journey and ongoing fundraising efforts on the Resilient Rina blog.

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