Superheroes surprise 5-year-old cancer patient in Athens

- A 5-year-old cancer patient got an amazing surprise when his favorite superheroes showed up to give him gifts and encouragement as he heads into a surgery on Thursday.

Asher Thrift smiled from ear-to-ear on Wednesday when Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Spiderman all came into his room. Asher was given his own superhero cape, a one-of-a-kind superhero badge, and superhero gadgets.

He was diagnosed with stage IV ganglioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, in January. Since his diagnosis, Asher has been receiving his chemotherapy treatments in Atlanta. On Thursday, Asher is traveling to Atlanta for an extended time for an important surgery.

“Asher was having nausea and vomiting intermittently, and we weren’t sure of the cause,” Eric Thrift, Asher’s father, said. “Our primary care doctor thought maybe it was an intestinal issue, like inflammation, but when we saw a children’s gastroenterologist in January, they didn’t find any problems.”

The hospital staff at Piedmont Athens Regional wanted to make sure Asher had fun before heading to Atlanta.

“Asher gets to come in and see familiar, friendly faces,” Eric said. “It is great. I sit here in my chair and he sits in the bed, and Courtney will come in with a bunch of games and stuff. Then, he doesn’t want to leave!”

Decreasing the anxiety and fear that can come with visiting a hospital is one of the ways White strives to make a positive difference in the lives of Piedmont Athens Regional’s pediatrics patients.

“Each day is different for Asher, and we try to provide care for what he needs each time he visits,” White said. “The important thing is that I help him to understand what we’re doing while he’s here to make sure that he feels in control. No child should have to go through this, but Asher is a superhero, with an amazing attitude.”

Approximately 6 percent of children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Ganglioneuroblastoma is a rare form of neuroblastoma in that it contains both malignant (cancerous) and benign (noncancerous) parts.

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