Dalton has never backed down from a challenge.
As a competitive dancer, he practices up to 20 hours per week, including modern, jazz, tap and ballet, while still finding the time to excel in school. He had no plans to slow down when suddenly, at the age of 16, he was faced with the biggest challenge of his life.
In 2014, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in Dalton’s abdomen.
“It was a very sad day, but somehow, I felt like it was going to be OK,” said Dalton. “When my oncologist, Dr. Carrye Cost, told me I had cancer, I was of course scared, but she told me in a way that made me feel safe and comfortable.”
Dalton was diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare disease in which cancer cells grow on the adrenal gland in the abdomen. He was immediately admitted to Children’s Hospital Colorado and started chemotherapy. Since then, he has had three surgeries, two rounds of radiation, 18 rounds of chemotherapy, and a life-saving Flight for Life experience.
Now 18 years old, Dalton recently enrolled in a clinical trial to treat tumors in his lungs. He is taking an innovative drug designed to target and kill cancer cells without sacrificing healthy cells.
Strength in numbers
Dalton’s doctors and nurses have played a vital role in helping him and his family get through his cancer experience.
“When Dalton was first diagnosed, it was sad and terrifying. But one of the things our oncologist told us right at the beginning was that we were not alone,” said Dalton’s father, Gary. “That means even more to me now because she’s right. We have never been alone in this fight.”
Dalton says that Dr. Cost always goes the extra mile to ensure he receives the best care. One of Dalton’s favorite memories of Dr. Cost happened shortly after he was diagnosed. He was in his hospital room when she came running in carrying suitcases. She was on her way to a medical conference, where she was planning to talk to other doctors about the best way to treat children with adrenal cortical carcinoma. Before she left, she wanted to assure Dalton that she was doing everything in her power to help him.
“I knew in my heart that she would do whatever she could to help me get better,” said Dalton.
Finding the silver lining
Dalton’s bond with his medical team has inspired him to dedicate his life to helping others. He hopes to someday work in pediatric medicine so he can impact children’s lives the way his caregivers have impacted his.
Cancer has not stopped Dalton from doing what he loves. He continues to take classes at the Colorado School of Dance, and he plans to attend the University of Colorado Boulder in January. Treatment has become another part of his busy schedule, but he has not let it take over his life.
“I have learned that you should never take anything for granted,” said Dalton. “It’s the positive memories that will get you through each day. There will always be something to fight for, and it is incredible what you can achieve when you have courage.”