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AbledTeens Banner shows a group of teenagers side-by-side facing the camera with the view of Earth's sunrise from space in the background.
AbledTeens Post Banner Headline reads: Max Lamm: 13 year-old Wrestler Dominates His Weight Class And Geography Class. A video screen grab from shows a smiling, blonde-haired Max wearing a winner's medal from a wrestling tournament and smiling at the camera while standing next to one of the referees.

Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that begins in the retina — the sensitive lining on the inside of your eye. Retinoblastoma most commonly affects young children, but can rarely occur in adults.

Your retina is made up of nerve tissue that senses light as it comes through the front of your eye. The retina sends signals through your optic nerve to your brain, where these signals are interpreted as images.

A rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma is the most common form of cancer affecting the eye in children. Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Signs of retinoblastoma include:

  • A white color in the center circle of the eye (pupil) when light is shone in the eye, such as when taking a flash photograph
  • Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions
  • Eye redness
  • Eye swelling

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if you notice any changes to your child’s eyes that concern you. Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer, so your child’s doctor may explore other more common eye conditions first.

If you have a family history of retinoblastoma, ask your pediatrician when your child should begin regular eye exams to screen for retinoblastoma.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Retinoblastoma occurs when nerve cells in the retina develop genetic mutations. These mutations cause the cells to continue growing and multiplying when healthy cells would die. This accumulating mass of cells forms a tumor. Retinoblastoma cells can invade further into the eye and nearby structures. Retinoblastoma can also spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body, including the brain and spine.

In the majority of cases, it’s not clear what causes the genetic mutations that lead to retinoblastoma. However, it’s possible for children to inherit a genetic mutation from their parents.

Retinoblastoma that is inherited

Gene mutations that increase the risk of retinoblastoma and other cancers can be passed from parents to children. Hereditary retinoblastoma is passed from parents to children in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means only one parent needs a single copy of the mutated gene to pass the increased risk of retinoblastoma on to the children. If one parent carries a mutated gene, each child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting that gene.

Although a genetic mutation increases a child’s risk of retinoblastoma, it doesn’t mean that cancer is inevitable.

Children with the inherited form of retinoblastoma tend to develop the disease at an earlier age. Hereditary retinoblastoma also tends to occur in both eyes, as opposed to just one eye.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

What treatments are best for your child’s retinoblastoma depends on the size and location of the tumor, whether cancer has spread to areas other than the eye, your child’s overall health and your own preferences. When possible, your child’s doctor will work to preserve your child’s vision.


Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be taken in pill form, or it can be given through a blood vessel. Chemotherapy drugs travel throughout the body to kill cancer cells.

In children with retinoblastoma, chemotherapy may help shrink a tumor so another treatment, such as radiation therapy, cryotherapy, thermotherapy or laser therapy, may be used to treat the remaining cancer cells. This may improve the chances that your child won’t need surgery.

Chemotherapy may also be used to treat retinoblastoma that has spread to tissues outside the eyeball or to other areas of the body.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Two types of radiation therapy used in treating retinoblastoma include:

  • Internal radiation (brachytherapy). During internal radiation, the treatment device is temporarily placed in or near the tumor. Internal radiation for retinoblastoma uses a small disk made of radioactive material. The disk is stitched in place and left for a few days while it slowly gives off radiation to the tumor. Placing radiation near the tumor reduces the chance that treatment will affect healthy eye tissue.
  • External beam radiation. External beam radiation delivers high-powered beams to the tumor from a large machine outside of the body. As your child lies on a table, the machine moves around your child, delivering the radiation. External beam radiation can cause side effects when radiation beams reach the delicate areas around the eye, such as the brain. For this reason, external beam radiation is typically reserved for children with advanced retinoblastoma and those for whom other treatments haven’t worked.

Laser therapy (laser photocoagulation)

During laser therapy, a laser is used to destroy blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the tumor. Without a source for fuel, cancer cells may die.

Cold treatments (cryotherapy)

Cryotherapy uses extreme cold to kill cancer cells. During cryotherapy, a very cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen, is placed in or near the cancer cells. Once the cells freeze, the cold substance is removed and the cells thaw. This process of freezing and thawing, repeated a few times in each cryotherapy session, causes the cancerous cells to die.

Heat treatments (thermotherapy)

Thermotherapy uses extreme heat to kill cancer cells. During thermotherapy, heat is directed at the cancer cells using ultrasound, microwaves or lasers.


When the tumor is too large to be treated by other methods, surgery may be used to treat retinoblastoma. In these situations, surgery to remove the eye may help prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Surgery for retinoblastoma includes:

  • Surgery to remove the affected eye (enucleation). During surgery to remove the eye, surgeons disconnect the muscles and tissue around the eye and remove the eyeball. A portion of the optic nerve, which extends from the back of the eye into the brain, also is removed.
  • Surgery to place an eye implant. Immediately after the eyeball is removed, the surgeon places a special ball — made of plastic or other materials — in the eye socket. The muscles that control eye movement are attached to the implant. After your child heals, the eye muscles will adapt to the implanted eyeball, so it may move just as the natural eye did. However, the implanted eyeball cannot see.
  • Fitting an artificial eye. Several weeks after surgery, a custom-made artificial eye can be placed over the eye implant. The artificial eye can be made to match your child’s healthy eye. The artificial eye sits behind the eyelids and clips onto the eye implant. As your child’s eye muscles move the eye implant, it will appear that your child is moving the artificial eye.

Side effects of surgery include infection and bleeding. Removing an eye will affect your child’s vision, though most children will adapt to the loss of an eye over time.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are studies to test new treatments and new ways of using existing treatments. While clinical trials give your child a chance to try the latest in retinoblastoma treatments, they can’t guarantee a cure. Ask your child’s doctor whether your child is eligible to participate in clinical trials. Your child’s doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of enrolling in a clinical trial.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

In most cases, doctors aren’t sure what causes retinoblastoma, so there’s no proven way to prevent the disease.

Prevention for families with inherited retinoblastoma

In families with the inherited form of retinoblastoma, preventing retinoblastoma may not be possible. However, genetic testing enables families to know which children have an increased risk of retinoblastoma, so eye exams can begin at an early age. That way, retinoblastoma may be diagnosed very early — when the tumor is small and a chance for a cure and preservation of vision is still possible.

If your doctor determines that your child’s retinoblastoma was caused by an inherited genetic mutation, your family may be referred to a genetic counselor.

Genetic testing can be used to determine whether:

  • Your child with retinoblastoma is at risk of other related cancers
  • Your other children are at risk of retinoblastoma and other related cancers, so they can start eye exams at an early age
  • You and your partner have the possibility of passing the genetic mutation on to future children

The genetic counselor can discuss the risks and benefits of genetic testing and help you decide whether you, your partner or your other children will be tested for the genetic mutation.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it’s common to feel a range of emotions — from shock and disbelief to guilt and anger. Everyone finds his or her own way of coping with stressful situations, but if you’re feeling lost, you might try to:

  • Gather all the information you need. Find out enough about retinoblastoma to feel comfortable making decisions about your child’s care. Talk with your child’s health care team. Keep a list of questions to ask at the next appointment. Visit your local library and ask for help searching for information. Consult the websites of the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society for more information.
  • Organize a support network. Find friends and family who can help support you as a caregiver. Loved ones can accompany your child to doctor visits or sit by his or her bedside in the hospital when you can’t be there. When you’re with your child, your friends and family can help out by spending time with your other children or helping around your house.
  • Take advantage of resources for kids with cancer. Seek out special resources for families of kids with cancer. Ask your clinic’s social workers about what’s available. Support groups for parents and siblings put you in touch with people who understand what you’re feeling. Your family may be eligible for summer camps, temporary housing and other support.
  • Maintain normalcy as much as possible. Small children can’t understand what’s happening to them as they undergo cancer treatment. To help your child cope, try to maintain a normal routine as much as possible.Try to arrange appointments so that your child can have a set nap time each day. Have routine mealtimes. Allow time for play when your child feels up to it. If your child must spend time in the hospital, bring items from home that helps him or her feel more comfortable.Ask your health care team about other ways to comfort your child through his or her treatment. Some hospitals have recreation therapists or child-life workers who can give you more specific ways to help your child to cope.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

New England Retinoblastoma Support Group
Provides emotional support and resources for families with retinoblastoma. Information and referral, phone support, conferences, literature, advocacy.
Phone: 1-800-562-6265
Address: New England Retinoblastoma Parents Support Group, P.O. Box 317, Watertown, MA 02272

American Cancer Society
Health information, coping with cancer, new treatment and research, discussion groups, locate resources in your community.
Phone: 1-800-227-2345l

Children’s Cancer Association
Visit this site and request a copy of The Kids Cancer Pages. It is a comprehensive national resource directory on childhood cancer. It was created to help connect and network families to organizations, information, resources, and to each other on a national basis.
Phone: 1-503-244-3141

National Cancer Institute
The U.S. Government’s primary agency for cancer research and information.
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER

Young People With Cancer
This book provides parents with information on the most common types of cancer, treatments and side effects and common issues that arise when a child is diagnosed with cancer.
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) and select the option to order publications Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time (within the U.S. and its territories).

The National Children’s Cancer Society
Provides information, emotional and financial support to children with cancer and their families for expenses related to cancer treatment. The website has special links just for kids and information on healthy caregiving for families.
Phone: 1-800-532-6459

Eye Cancer Network
Educational, diagnostic and treatment information about ocular cancers.

Band-Aids and Blackboards
A website about growing up with a medical problem from the perspective of kids and teens.

National Eye Institute
The U.S. Government agency conducts and supports research to help prevent and treat eye diseases. The website provides health information in English and Spanish.
Phone: 1-301-496-5248

Patient-Centered Guides
Childhood Cancer Survivors; A Practical Guide to Your Future
Childhood Cancer: A Parent’s Guide to Solid Tumor Cancers
Books written to give survivors and their families the information they need.
Phone: 1-800-998-9938

Candlelighter’s Childhood Cancer Foundation
A national non-profit membership organization whose mission is to educate, support, serve, and advocate for families of children with cancer, survivors of childhood cancer, and the professionals who care for them.
Phone: 800-366-2223


Visual Impairment Resources

Visually impairment can be described as partially sighted, low vision, hard-of-seeing, or blind based on the degree of visual impairment. A person is considered LEGALLY blind when the best-corrected visual acuity is 20/200, or the person’s visual field is 20 degrees or less. Few legally blind persons have no sight; in fact, most have some remaining vision. Partially sighted or low vision generally refers to a severe visual impairment, not necessarily limited to distance vision. Low vision applies to all individuals with sight who are unable to read the newspaper at a normal viewing distance, even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, although they may require adaptations in lighting or the size of print, and, sometimes, Braille. Generally, the partially sighted individual has a central visual acuity range of 20/70 to 20/200 in the better eye with best correction by glasses.

Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS)
This state agency provides vocational rehabilitation and employment services for blind and visually impaired Florida residents. Services include school to work transition, job placement, counseling, vocational and academic training, orientation and mobility training, personal and social adjustments services and post-employment services. A part of DBS, the Florida Department of Education specialists from Children and Family Services serve eligible children who are blind or visually impaired so that they may reach educational and independent living goals.
Phone: 1-800-342-1330

National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI)
A national non-profit organization that enables parents to find information and resources for their children who are blind or visually impaired. NAPVI offers information and referral services, initiates outreach by providing seed money to promotes the development of state and local organizations, has a quarterly publication, advocates for educational needs, and offers emotional support and networking opportunities.
Phone: 1-900-562-6265

V.I. Guide
An Internet site that contains information on topics is pertaining to parenting and teaching children with a visual impairment. Information and links to other sites about vision-related services, special education, assistive technology and products, laws and legislation, entertainment, research, and other organizations and groups that might be of interest.

The Hadley School for the Blind
The Hadley School offers Parent/Child and Parent/Family correspondence courses on a variety of topics. Parent/Child courses include: Reach and Teach, which provides step-by-step teaching techniques and guideline to help parents assess and build on a child’s strengths; Child Development; Partners in Education; Learning, Play, and Toys; and Early Independence. Parent/Family course topics include Abacus I and II; Accessing Local Sports and Recreation; Braille Reading for Family members, College Bound, the Human Eye; Independent Living; Personal Computers; self-esteem.
Phone: 1-800-323-4238

Blind Children’s Center
This Los Angeles organization has a number of videos and publications (some in Spanish) that can provide useful information for families of blind or visually impaired children. Topics include: beginning nurturing, social, play and language interactions; teaching young children who are visually impaired; common concerns for the preschool child who is visually impaired or blind; feeding a child with a visual impairment; movement development for babies who are visually impaired; orientation and mobility for preschool children designing and constructing simple adaptive mobility devices for preschool children; multiple disabilities; and parents talk about their feelings.
Phone: 1-800-222-3566


Other Organizations

American Council of the Blind
Phone: 1-800-424-8666

American Federation for the Blind
Phone: 1-800-232-5463

American Printing House for the Blind

Lighthouse International

National Federation of the Blind


Links to Other Websites

Eye Resources on the Internet

International Organization for the Blind

Blindness Resource Center

A Blind Net

Snuggl’ Up, Inc
Phone: 305-931-6333



SNG Prosthetic Eye Institute



Angel Flight
Angel Flight is a non-profit, volunteer pilot organization that coordinates free air transportation on corporate aircraft for those with medical needs.
Phone: 1-800-352-4256

Midwest Express Miracle Miles
One free flight, thereafter flights are discounted. No financial requirements.
Phone: Call Natalie Fuerst at 1-414-570-3644

Corporate Angels
Private jets used by corporations that have empty seats, free flights. No financial requirements.
Phone: 1-914-328-1313

Northwest Airlines, Kid Cares Program
Those with financial need have priority.
Phone: 1-612-726-4206

American Airlines, Aadvantage Miles for Kids in Need
Helps those in financial need.
Phone: 1-817-963- 8118

The National Patient Travel HELPLINE
Helps those in financial need.
Phone: 1-800-296-1217



American Cancer Society’s Winn-Dixie Hope Lodge
The American Cancer Society understands the challenges that families face when a loved one needs cancer treatment far from home. It can be uncomfortable and extremely costly to stay in hotels for weeks at a time. That’s where Hope Lodge can help. It offers a friendly environment with no limit on the length of stay. Hope Lodge provides several kitchen areas where families can cook their own meals. While Hope Lodge does not provide medical, counseling, or religious services, it is far more than a hotel. It’s a home-away-from-home when it’s needed most.
Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345; In Miami: 305-547-2210; Other areas: 1-317-415-5000

Ronald McDonald House
Since 1974, families around the world have been calling Ronald McDonald House a “home-away-from-home.”
Address: Ronald McDonald House Charities, One Kroc Drive, Oak Brook, Illinois, 60523
Phone: 1-630-623-7048


AbledTeens Photo shows 13 year old Max Lamm walking with his guide dog Seal. Max lost his vision as an infant to Retinoblastoma - cancerous tumors in his eyes. Max has sandy blonde hair cut neatly and is wearing a blue t-shirt with khaki shorts. We can see his hand on Seal's harness handle but the aspect ratio of the photo doesn't let us see Seal except for the top edge of him. He looks like he might be a collie-labrador mix. Seal is black with tan spots above his eyes, a white streak from between his eyes to around his nose flanked by black and then tan coloring around his mouth. There is a nicely mowed lawn and trees in the background in Max's home-town of Mars, Pennsylvania.

Max Lamm Is Not Defined By His Lack Of Sight


There is always a great temptation for the media to make a big deal when someone who is living with sensory loss or physical impairment achieves something. The achievement is always certainly laudable, but not because of the so-called disability.

It should be celebrated for the same reasons we mark achievements by non-disabled persons who mark these milestones because of their personal and distinctive combinations of preparation, determination, discipline and, above all, character.

Max Lamm is a 13 year-old who lives in Mars, Pennsylvania. He is a junior wrestler who has excelled in all these personal and distinctive markers.

However, most of the media outlets and websites that are sharing a video profile of him done by the team at are touting him as a ‘blind’ wrestler. That’s something that Max would hate. In their description of the video on YouTube, the folks at Bleacher Report even admit that, “The one lesson Max repeated throughout our interviews is that he’s not a ‘blind wrestler’, he’s just a regular kid.” Yet the headline on their website and on YouTube both refer to him as ‘Blind Wrestler Max Lamm’.

As you’ll discover in the video, Max has simply adapted his remaining senses and used his brain, as any other wrestler would, to evolve his technique. He’s learned well from his coaches, applied his own instincts and has been well supported by his parents because they’ve refused to raise him as a ‘disabled child’. Max finished his last season with a 10-1 record, dominated his weight class in a regional tournament this past summer and also showed that he’s a disciplined and talented student by winning his school’s Geography Bee.

Does his loss of vision give him a better ability to focus than other students? Has his upbringing influenced his determination and attitude, not to mention the confidence that his loyal guide dog, and best friend, Seal helped to evolve? They were only matched up in 2012 by MIRA. Who knows?

It’s likely a combination of all of the above coupled with Max’s individual and distinct personality and character.

These are issues Co-Founder Laura Meddens can relate to. She progressively lost her sight as an adult, but adapted along the way with the help of assistive technology that’s improved over the years, and with the help of her previous and current Seeing Eye® guide dogs Wagner, and Nugget, respectively.

Laura, like Max, also doesn’t want to be referred to as a ‘blind entrepreneur or a ‘blind advocate’, she’s Laura – a person who wants to live an ‘Abled’ life that is made more achievable with the assistive and adaptive options available to her.

So it is with Max, and the reason we feature him as one of our AbledTeens is for the combination of his character, integrity and talents, as well as how he’s overcome the sensory disadvantage that infantile retinoblastoma caused, that make him an inspiration to all of us, blind or not.

AbledPhoto courtesy of shows Max Lamm with his guide dog Seal. Max is wearing a blue sleeveless sports jersey with black shorts that have red stripes along the side. He is kneeling beside Seal, his St. Pierre breed guide dog on the grass near some bushes. IN the photo next to it, Max is sitting on a bench in a park in the summertime with another female student and both have their guide dogs at their feet. There is another girl sitting on the grass in the foreground.
AbledPhotos shows an info graphic on Retinoblastoma from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital titled What Is Retinoblastoma in white text on a Cerulean blue background. Then black text on a light blue background with numbers in red reads as follows: This rare tumor can occur in one or both eyes. It is caused by a genetic defect in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. 250 to 300 children in the U.S. develop retinoblastoma each year. 40 percent of children with retinoblastoma have tumors in both eyes. These are all caused by the heritary form, which means the mutation occurs in all of the body's cells. 60 percent of children with retinoblastoma have disease in only one eye. Of these, most have the sporadic (non-hereditary) form. There is a 95 percent survival rate for children whose tumors have not spread beyond the eye. There is a 50 percent risk with each pregnancy that individuals with the hereditary form of retinoblastoma will pass the mutated gene to their children. The bottom panel reads: Children who have retinoblastoma in both eyes generally have the familial form of the disease. Although some children inherit this mutation from their parents, others develop a new mutation, which can be passed on to future generations. This is followed by the logo of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital which shows a side view of a waist-high white silhouette of a child against the cerulean blue background that joins into an arc over the text of the logo. Click here to go to the Hospital's website.

The Story of Max and Seal by Max Himself

From MIRA Foundation USA

My name is Max Lamm and I am 12 years old. Three years ago I started to lose what little vision I had. I hated learning to use the white cane even though it did help me get around. My parents promised me that they would investigate getting a guide dog. My dad was denied by several guide dog groups because of my age, I was almost 11 years old. One night , my dad was researching guide dogs and came across MIRA. He immediately called, Bob Baillie, and inquired about the foundation.

Bob was going to be in the Philly area where we were going to be visiting and agreed to meet us…it was meant to be! I loved Bob’s dog, Devon, instantly! I was working so hard with orientation and mobility with a cane; I couldn’t imagine how different it would feel with a dog. I knew how different I would look with a dog and not a cane, though, and at my age, appearance is everything!!!

April 2011 I traveled to North Carolina to have my orientation and mobility skills tested as well as see if I could handle a guide dog. It is a feeling that I cannot explain when I was holding on to a harness and not a cane. I worked hard and it paid off, I was headed to Canada that summer.

Five days after my eleventh birthday my mom and I flew to Canada to start the journey. Training started when we got there and never ended until I boarded my airplane to go home. I have never worked so hard in my life. The trainers and staff were awesome. I learned to speak a little French because that is what my dog, Seal, understands. It was difficult at times to be away from home but it was short term and I knew I would leave with a new best friend.

Seal is a handsome St. Pierre breed. A mix between a Labrador and a Bernese Mountain Dog. I am constantly told that Seal is so beautiful and that his eyebrows are the cutest! Seal fit right into our home immediately. If you own a dog you know the responsibility of caring for them and I do it well. I brush his teeth and fur, feed him daily, take him outside, and work on maintaining his command and street skills. Seal rides the school bus with me everyday and goes to all my classes. His least favorite class is gym class because he has to sit at the side of the gym and watch me. He is the best snuggler and best friend.

I like to do things for myself and Seal allows me to do this while not holding on to someone’s arm or a white cane. When I am out I am stopped at least twice by people who want to talk about the dog and how great we look together. I was never told that when I used the cane. I am proud of myself and continue to work hard so I will be as independent as possible.

See more at: MIRA USA

Related Agencies Banner
Abled Public Service Ad for the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for Retinoblastoma International. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for Fighting retinoblastoma Childhood Eye Cancer Trust in the U.K. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for the Canadian Retinoblastoma Society. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for Through An Angel's Eyes - Supporting children and families with eye cancer. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for MIRA Foundation Canada and USA that provides guide dogs for blind children between the ages of 11 and 17. Click here to go to their website.
Abled Public Service Ad for St. Jude Children's research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Click here to go to the Hospital's website.
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AbledAlert link banner Shows a photograph of healthcare workers dressed in turquoise blue surgical gowns , hairnets and pink medic al gloves set against a world map and chart showing data on Ebola outbreaks since 1976. The headline reads: Abled Alert: Outbreak: Tracking the deadliest yet. Click here to go to our Special Ongoing Coverage on the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa.
AbledAlert link box shows a photograph of an Asian Tiger Mosquito set against a transparent red layer covering a map of the Caribbean region with the word Chikungunya in WHite at the top. The headline reads: Outbreak: 'Contorted With Pain Virus. CLick here to go to our special ongoing coverage.
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AbledRx link box shows a photo of various Aspirin bottles and boxes. The headline reads: AbledRx; Aspirin: Linked to Huge Cut in Cancer. Click here to go to the post.
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AbledCauses link box shows a photograph of web evangelist Molly Holzschlag with her trademark curly long hair before she became ill with a rare disorder. The other photo is a more recent one, showing Molly with much shorter hair covered by a colorful head scarf. The text reads: AbledCauses: Molly Holzschlag: The Fight of Her Life. Click here to go to the story to learn how you can help this Internet Pioneer beat this rare illness.
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