Against all odds, Canton’s Mullen family presents ‘A Night of Hope’


Their circumstances then continued to improve as summer turned to fall; Chris went back to work full time, Christopher and Stella “had a blast” together on Halloween, and Christopher even started taking gym classes with Lisa each week.

The Mullen family poses with Mickey during a recent trip to Disney.

But the Mullens’ optimism was tempered by the harsh realities of neuroblastoma, and in particular the high rate of relapse for stage IV patients like Christopher. And they knew that if it did come back, there wouldn’t even be a treatment protocol, let alone a cure.

“They pretty much pull out all guns,” Lisa said of the initial phase of treatment. “After that, there’s really no other cancer treatments to throw at it.”

Still, Lisa said she was sick to her stomach waiting for the results of Christopher’s biopsy after a lump was discovered in his chest in mid December. The diagnosis came a few weeks later, just days after they had returned from a last-minute trip to Disney World.

On New Year’s Day she delivered the news to family and friends: “It is relapse. Christopher has a tumor in his chest. Our heads are still spinning … We will be making a lot of phone calls and have already reached out to other families that are in our situation. Hoping to start some type of treatment by the end of next week.”


It has now been four months since Christopher’s last diagnosis, and in that time he has received four more rounds of chemotherapy, yet the tumor remains. Lisa said it actually grew slightly after the first two rounds of “higher dose” chemo administered back in January and February.

The plan now is to have surgery to remove it, then at some point down the road to make a trip to Vermont to visit Dr. Sholler.

Although neither Lisa nor Chris has met Dr. Sholler in person, Lisa has spoken with her on the telephone numerous times, including once on the Sunday after Christopher was diagnosed.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but a few weeks later Lisa vowed to stop “constantly obsessing over the odds” and to “live life one day at a time.”

“Odds, Shmodds!” she wrote on January 17. “Round two of this battle is starting and we are going into this head on. There is always someone who defies the odds; why not Christopher? There are plenty of relapsed kids out there who are living life and defying the odds — Christopher will be one of them.”

By choosing to raise money for Dr. Sholler on May 15, the Mullens have actually joined a network of families with a similar outlook. They call themselves the NB Alliance, and while they depend on dollars, their primary currency is hope.

Their goal is a simple one — to deliver “new therapies to the bedside now for the patients who need them most” — and they do it through fundraisers like the Mullens’ upcoming “Night of Hope,” where the money goes straight to Dr. Sholler’s research efforts.

And such a goal makes it easier to fundraise, Lisa explained, because it provides something tangible that kids like her son might one day benefit from directly.

In the meantime, the Mullens have no choice but to “live life” as best they can, and part of that, Lisa said, is being able to step outside of “survival mode” every once in a while and to cherish those special little moments they get to share with their children.

Moments like the night of February 19, when Lisa was lying in bed with Stella and Christopher, watching a movie.

“Christopher rolled over to look at me and said, ‘Mama, I happy. You happy?’ I replied ‘Yes Christopher, I am happy.’ Christopher then asked ‘Daddy happy?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Daddy is happy.’ Then he rolled to look at Stella and said ‘Stella, you happy?’ Stella replied ‘Yes.’

“What a great night.”

For more information on the NB Alliance, go to

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avatar Posted by on Apr 29 2010. Filed under Citizen Classics, Features. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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