Last Friday began like so many other days in the past year for Dylan Newman. He woke up, his nurse came to administer his chemotherapy, he showered and then headed off to school. The difference this Friday was that the 15-year-old had successfully completed his final round of a 53-week chemotherapy regimen.
Imagine Dylan’s surprise to find family members, school faculty and fellow students gathered outside Southold High School around 2 p.m. to celebrate him. People wore green, his favorite color, to show support. A sign with his baseball team number, 5, and the words “Team Dylan” was hanging on a tree.
Principal Terence Rusch called Dylan to the high school entrance steps and told him everyone had come together to keep with tradition and have him ring a ceremonial bell, indicating the official end of treatment. Sporting his baseball cap, Dylan walked up to a Southold fire truck parked in front of the school, rang the bell loudly and was met with open arms and tears by family members and friends.
“It feels great. I mean, just getting it done was great,” he said. “When we started it was like, ‘Oh, this has to be for 53 weeks?’ — and now it’s over.”
The freshman was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma in April 2018. Soon after, he began chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Then, last July, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his pelvis and fibula. He has been battling the disease ever since and in October was determined by his doctors to be in remission.
With the help of his family and friends, as well as widespread community support, he persevered. A sign erected on school grounds for Friday’s ceremony, which formerly read, ‘You got this,’ now reads, ‘You did this,’ with the word “got” crossed out.
His mother, Tanya Newman, called her son “a trouper,” adding that he wasn’t fazed by the grueling year of treatment.
“He gets up every day, he knows he has chemo and he just — he just does it, he knows that’s what he has to do,” she said. “He’s had nine different chemo drugs every couple of weeks. We do two weeks on, one week off. And then we do a week on with really heavy chemo, with two weeks off, because his blood count drops really low and he can’t be around anybody.”
Seven of the rounds were extremely heavy, Ms. Newman said, and required that Dylan remain at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the entire week. He would go in around 8 a.m., she estimated, and finish up around 5 p.m., after which he would stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Ten of the chemo rounds weren’t as heavy, allowing Dylan to get his chest port accessed at the center, return home and receive therapy there from a nurse for the rest of the week.
Dylan’s been lucky, his mother said, as he’s gotten sick only twice in 14 months. He still needs 10 days of radiation on his lungs, and will have to get the Mediport, an implanted catheter that makes it easy for doctors to take blood samples and provide intravenous fluids and medication, removed from his chest.
“We want to go on family trips,” Ms. Newman said, looking to the future. “You know, we haven’t been able to do anything as a family for the past year. We just want to live our lives and be a normal family … to just be normal and not every day think about what medicine we need and what day is chemo and what day are we in the city.”
Dylan’s father, Todd Newman, said the journey has been rough, but that his son is the toughest kid he knows.
“He is … amazing is an understatement. He does chemo, goes to school as soon as he’s done,” Mr. Newman said. “He just – I don’t know how to sum it up. He did it. He did it and he’s going to keep doing it.”
“As a 14-year-old, to find out you have cancer and actually be able to get through it,” his father said, “there is a lot to be proud of.”
“I was mentally prepared for it,” Dylan said. “I just went through it.”
Dylan’s sister, Kelsey, 13, wore a black T-shirt Friday that read, “Brother’s a survivor.” Both his parents expressed gratitude to all of Dylan’s supporters.
With a bright future ahead of him, Dylan wants to get back to his longtime passion of playing baseball. In eighth grade, he started on the varsity team, playing third base and batting lead-off. He hasn’t played in about a year and said he looks forward to getting back on the team.
“Now, he’s able,” his father said. “He’s structurally sound, ready to go. Just got to get the Mediport out of his chest and we’ll go to work.”
“One of the many, many things that makes Southold special,” Mr. Rusch said, “is that we have each other’s backs. We rally around each other, we boost each other up; that’s what we do here. And for the last year, this town has come together — this school has come together — to help one of our own.”
Top photo caption: Dylan Newman rings a ceremonial bell on a Southold Fire Department truck outside Southold High School Friday, signifying the official end of his 53-week chemotherapy regimen. He was joined by family members and friends. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)