Braxton started to have pain in her wrists in the summer of 2018. As an avid gymnast who has spent countless hours training, her parents assumed the pain was due to her active lifestyle. They received results from a blood test and were given a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
After just a few weeks, the rheumatologist was stunned to see her symptoms go away so quickly. But soon after, additional symptoms began to emerge, including persistent headaches that led to a trip to the emergency room.
The visit instantly changed Braxton’s and her family’s lives when physicians diagnosed her with very high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Yet, since then, Braxton’s incredibly strong mindset and resilience has been on display throughout her treatment, and it’s been noticed by both family members and physicians.
“Braxton is so strong both mentally and physically. Her positive outlook gives her so much strength. Even when we expect her to feel exhausted and have low energy, she surprises us all and is able to get in a workout or go for a bike ride. It's easy to see how her active lifestyle as a high-level gymnast has translated to her medical stamina,” said Karim Sadak, MD, MPH, MSE, a University of Minnesota Physicians pediatric hematologist/oncologist.
Braxton’s mother, Erin, added, “Push-ups, sit-ups, anything. She was fully determined to get back to what she loves to do. Her mental toughness and her determination have been just such a huge part of her fight.”
Having the opportunity to help patients like Braxton is part of the reason Dr. Sadak chose a career in pediatric oncology. “Kids are the best. They are so resilient and so fun to be around. Kids like Braxton remind you how strong the human spirit can be, and even a dreaded disease like cancer can’t take that away. She’s always so kind and understanding,” Dr. Sadak said.
Braxton is undergoing a long treatment plan but has stayed active when possible. One week she would be in the hospital for chemotherapy, the next she would be in the gym.
“There are very real and tangible benefits of exercise for patients. A great deal of research exists in this area and studies have shown that exercise during cancer treatments can improve the quality of life, strength, energy and even positively impact mental health,” Dr. Sadak said.
Even during such a challenging time, Braxton’s family was quick to think of others and are trying to make a difference in the lives of childhood cancer patients through the Team Brax 1 Fund (TB1 Fund).
“We want to do everything we can to help out and give back because the treatment we’ve received from doctors, nurses and volunteers is tremendous. We tell all of our friends, hopefully, it never happens in your life, but if it did, this is where you want to be 100%."