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When Life Gives You Lemons...

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An Altamonte man’s terrifying cancer diagnosis became his family’s call to action to support families like theirs through the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

For Cameron Robertson, life could not be better.

The Altamonte Springs resident is about to marry. He has a nine-month-old boy and a successful career. And, most of all, he is healthy.

That is quite an outcome for someone who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just one year old.

Cameron’s family was living in New Jersey when he went in for a routine checkup. A lump in his stomach alarmed the medical staff, and it was quickly determined that Cameron suffered from hepatoblastoma, a rare form of childhood liver cancer.

There would be extensive chemotherapy and surgery. The future looked bleak. But little did the family know they would eventually become beacons of hope for others facing the same challenges.

Today, Cameron and his mother, Beth Robertson of Lake Mary, help others through their involvement with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Their goal is to support families who have gone through a similar crisis, all while raising money to one day spare all children and their parents from the horrors of cancer.

To date, the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has funded nearly 1,000 cutting-edge research projects across North America. It also helps cancer families connect, share success (and failure) stories, and offer leads to experimental treatment.
Being involved with the foundation gives hope and comfort to thousands of cancer patients and their families every year, but Cameron admits the work carries an emotional cost.

“It’s never easy, I will say that,” he says. “I’ve been to quite a few funerals.”

A Boy’s Life
Though he was very young, Cameron has fleeting memories of visits to Philadelphia, where he was undergoing treatment. He recalls his grandfather putting him on his shoulders and walking him around the city to get some fresh air. Cameron also remembers what his family called chemo buffets where he was treated to such goodies as McDonald’s, Chinese food, and milkshakes.

“They gave me everything I could possibly want,” Cameron says.

Cancer treatment is notoriously rough on the appetite. Perhaps it was a good sign, he reflects now, that his appetite was just fine.

The other thing Cameron recalls from those days is how impressed he was with his caretakers.

“You see these amazing nurses and doctors who put in countless hours helping kids like myself,” he says.

“There were always people by my side. I was never alone.”

 Kicking Cancer to the Curb

Since his eventual recovery, Cameron has spent his life pushing back at limitations. While swimming was allowed, contact sports were considered off-limits throughout his youth, but Cameron grew up watching football and always wanted to play.
“I was told, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, blah, blah, blah’” he says. “I wouldn’t accept that.”

So, Cameron came up with a compromise. In high school, he approached his doctor with the idea of playing as a kicker and punter, positions that were much less likely to experience rough contact.

“I nagged and nagged and nagged her,” Cameron says.

After doing some research, the doctor told him, “Buddy, if this is your dream, go chase it.”

The only lingering effect of Cameron’s childhood cancer is some hearing loss and difficulty with high pitches. To compensate for this, he learned to read lips at an early age.

Cameron moved to Central Florida in late 2018 to take a job offer. In July, he plans to wed Kassandra Alvarez, the mother of his son, Cayden. Also in the family is Kassandra’s two-year-old son, JanCarlos.

Taking a Stand

As a youngster, Cameron first learned about the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation through a close friend in preschool. The Pennsylvania-based organization was named after Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004), who was a four-year-old cancer patient in 2000 when she opened a front-yard lemonade stand to raise money for childhood cancer research. The Robertson family recruited other neighborhood families and began raising money for the cause. The lemonade stands became a symbol of courage in the face of cancer, and the nationwide Foundation was born.

“If it’s giving a family one more year with their child, two years, three years, a lifetime, that makes a difference,” Beth says of the Foundation’s work today. “Because no parent should have to bury their child.”

After many years of volunteering with the organization, Beth became an employee as a family coach in 2018. She and her husband, Stewart, followed Cameron to Central Florida after the Foundation allowed Beth to continue her work down here. Cameron‘s younger sister also came down, while an older sister remains up north. Beth is now the face of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in Seminole County and hopes to deeply integrate the Foundation into the community and connect with local families battling childhood cancer. In fact, during the coronavirus crisis, the Fondation has started a direct financial assistance program to help families fighting cancer buy groceries and cover necessary travel expenses.

Although Cameron has been disease-free for some 20 years, Beth says she could never abandon the deeply connected network of cancer families she embraced while caring for her son.

“It’s never over,” she says.

For his part, Cameron believes he can make a difference, even with the families of child cancer victims who did not recover as he did.

“I have the opportunity to continue their stories,” says Cameron, “to let them live their lives through me.”

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