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North Texas 2-Year-Old’s Battle with Aggressive, Rare Lymphoma



PLANO, TX – Samantha Gerber said the day her 2-year-old son, Christian, was diagnosed with the rarest and most aggressive form of lymphoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma, was “one of those things you just don’t forget.”

Christian had been experiencing extreme fatigue just a few days before Christmas in December 2020. Like a good mother, Gerber took her son to an urgent care, who said he was only fighting a mild virus. But her “motherly gut instinct” told her something wasn’t right. So, she took him to another urgent care, who said her son was only teething.

“And I’m thinking, ‘God, this just doesn’t make sense,’” Gerber said. “You just know your child better than anyone.”

And she was right. Shortly after Christian’s urgent care trips, Gerber said he started bumping into things that he never did normally. She took him straight to the emergency room on Dec. 22 after she found him crying in his room, unable to even find his bed because he couldn’t see.

On Dec. 23, Gerber was given news that turned her family’s entire world upside down. Christian had Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma in his brain.

Burkitt’s Lymphoma

The doctor knew right off the bat that something wasn’t right when Gerber brought Christian to the Children’s Medical Center in Plano. By the time doctors finished Christian’s MRI, he couldn’t see her hand in front of his face.

“As soon as the doctor came in, he was like, ‘Okay. I have not-so-good news.’ And I told him, ‘Stop. Hold on. I cannot listen to this without my husband,’” Gerber said.

After Geber got her husband on the phone, the doctor told them that Christian had a mass in his brain, and things did not look good. His brain tumor had grown so fast that it was pressing against his optic nerve, causing blindness.

“I pretty much felt like I was going to faint,” Gerber said. “And I remember the first thing I thought about is, ‘Oh, my God. I don’t know what life looks like without Christian.’”

Christian was then transported to a children’s hospital in Dallas and underwent a biopsy. There, he got his official diagnosis. Specifically, Christian’s diagnosis is Stage 4 Sporadic Burkitt lymphoma. This type of Burkitt’s lymphoma accounts for 30% of all childhood lymphomas, but an abdominal tumor is the most common site of occurrence, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s website. Christian’s site of occurrence happened to be in his brain.

“And after that moment, everything moved very fast from that point on,” Gerber said.