CARDIFF BY THE SEA — Superheroes really do still exist. At least for 6-year-old Max Kleckner there is hope that the good guys will win.
That’s why the community is having a party to benefit him Oct. 22 in the courtyard at Cardiff Town Center.
“Mighty Max” as his many friends and family know him, has been in the battle of a lifetime for the past two years and needs all of the super-strength he can get to support him and his family.
After a series of ear infections and colds that he couldn’t seem to shake, doctors at Rady Children’s Hospital diagnosed then 4-year-old Max with embryonic-type rhabdomyosarcoma. A large tumor had formed near his right eye, causing it to seize up.
Further testing showed that the cancer had metastasized-spreading into his bone marrow — making it stage 4 cancer.
The tumor was inoperable because of its proximity to the optic nerve and brain.
Max’s parents, Mark Kleckner and Natalie Young, were told that the survival rate ranged from 20 to 50 percent in children with the rare cancer.
Max believed his parents when they told him that his “superhero cells” were going to battle the “bad guy” cells invading his body. Just days after the initial diagnosis, doctors inserted a semi-permanent chemotherapy port under the skin in his chest. His parents said it was his “superhero port.” Max spent two weeks in the hospital undergoing his first round of chemotherapy and a blood transfusion.
Intent on eradicating the cancer, Max’s family traveled to Houston, Texas, for six weeks of proton radiation therapy in a clinical trial at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Although they were evacuated during Hurricane Ike and feeling the painful separation from supportive friends, Young said Max responded well to the intensive treatment.
Max enjoyed a “normal kid” year after the treatment before the cancer relapsed. The extremely rare and aggressive cancer that spread from a tumor in his head to his bone marrow now requires additional treatment. He underwent a year of chemotherapy and radiation and continues to be treated with premium-grade immunotherapy and alternative medicines.
Although Max is insured, the cost of his treatment will exceed the $2 million lifetime cap soon. “We’re not sure about what to do after that,” Young said. The family is headed to Maryland for additional treatment at the National Cancer Institute. “There is a 2 percent success rate with this (treatment),” Young said. “It’s such a rare form of cancer, there aren’t any cures.”
Max spent most of the summer in the hospital. “The minute he feels good we get out as much as we can,” Young said. “We love our community and our life.”
The close-knit community of friends has expanded as word of the family’s situation reaches more people. Rae Martin, whose family has known the family for four years, is not surprised at the outpouring of support. “They (Kleckners) are an amazing example of how to stay positive in the face of such adversity,” she said. “They are the greatest, easiest people to be around. Anyone who the Kleckners have touched feels the same way.”
Thad Benshoof, co-owner of Rimel’s and Zenbu, along with Matt Rimel said participating in the fundraiser was an easy choice. “I’m just trying to be a good community member, we all have kids and we all feel good about helping a kid from the community,” he said.
Along with local businesses Sambazon, Seaside Market, East Coast Pizza and Ezia, Rimel’s and Zenbu will donate all of the proceeds from their restaurants to benefit Max.
Numerous activities at the party include a jam session where children are welcome to play the instruments, a silent auction with donations from local businesses, pro-surfers and skateboarders and “Mighty Max” inspired items for sale.
For a little boy who loves to swim, surf and boogie board, the countless days in the hospital are difficult to endure. But with the love and support of his parents and friends, Max makes it though the painful shots and treatments.
“At this point you try to be strong and enjoy the good days,” Young said. “Max told me recently that the good thing about him having cancer is ‘because I’m really strong and I can handle it and my friends don’t have to get it,’” she said.
“My favorite thing about Max is his passion,” Young said. “He’s fearless, he loves his friends and he’s a sweetheart, he’s a lover.”
“I really appreciate all of the support. Everyone wants to help in some way,” she said. “I just wish they had a cure, I would give everything I own to find a cure.”
For more information on Max’s progress and opportunities to donate to Max’s battle against cancer, visit www.maxspartacus.com.