Elijah, cancer survivor
A cancer-free Eli, now 12 years old, is back to his old self and enjoying life to the fullest, his mother says. Credit: Cottage Health photo

Eli celebrated his 12th birthday last summer. He’s happy, healthy, full of energy, and loves playing football, basketball and video games.

Seeing him these days makes it hard to imagine that Eli had ever been sick, let alone battled cancer.

About five years ago when Eli was finishing second grade, he was playing soccer and suddenly fell to the ground in excruciating pain. His parents rushed him to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital emergency room, where an X-ray revealed his lung had collapsed, and bloodwork showed he was anemic.

“He was admitted to the Cottage Children’s Medical Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and a mass was discovered pushing on his lung,” said his mother, Marissa, who has been a registered nurse at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for the past 15 years.

Physicians ordered a renal ultrasound, and a two-pound tumor was discovered on his kidney. Even worse, it had burst, and cancer cells had spilled into his abdominal cavity.

Eli had a stage 3 Wilms tumor, a type of cancer more typically diagnosed in younger children.

Eli, cancer survivor at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Eli’s mother, Marissa, says the recent four-year anniversary of her son’s remission is “the beginning of a new chapter — for Eli to enjoy his childhood and be cancer-free.” Credit: Cottage Health photo

“Eli underwent a seven-hour surgery with three physicians at Cottage,” Marissa recalled. “His kidney and spleen had to be removed.”

For further treatment, Eli was a good candidate for chemotherapy and underwent seven months of outpatient treatment at the Grotenhuis Pediatric Clinics in Goleta, which is part of Cottage Children’s Medical Center.

After that, he completed three rounds of radiation.

“We are forever grateful for all of the care Eli received at Cottage.” Marissa said. “The team was so kind and compassionate, and I feel like watching them from the other side has made me a better nurse.”

Marissa and her family are looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

“Dec. 18, 2022, marked the fourth year that Eli has been in remission,” she said. “I think back on him ringing the bell after completing chemo and radiation, and I’m filled with a sense of relief.

“It was the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new chapter — for Eli to enjoy his childhood and be cancer-free.”