Now cancer-free, 'Wish Kid' busy with soccer, golf

The Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation, Inc. (ASW) is located on the Dayton Children's Hospital campus, which provides the staff with an easy way to interact with wish families. Every once in a while, families drop by and update ASW staff on how they are doing.

Recently, Larry Booher stopped by to pick-up a banner he used at a recent ASW fundraiser. ASW got a great update on his 12-year-old son, Wish Kid Caulin Booher.

“He’s looking good!” Booher said as he was heading over to the hospital to get Caulin after a routine check-up. He said the family is so happy that he is staying cancer-free and out of treatment. Three years post diagnosis, Caulin is still regaining his strength but is active and healthy and tries to forget the ordeal he experienced, Booher said.

Harder for his parents Suzanne and Larry to forget, Caulin’s cancer diagnosis at the age of 9 is a painful memory. He had been under treatment for swollen tonsils and adenoids, a common problem for younger children. His condition became severe rather quickly and his ear, nose and throat specialists recommended surgery. Healthy otherwise, the Boohers were shocked to learn that the tissue was malignant. Caulin had acute lymphocytic leukemia.

The Boohers had been supporting friends, another wish family, through their daughter’s cancer battle and now the roles were reversed.

“It was only a month after Ally got a clean bill of health that we were told to go straight to the emergency room at Dayton Children’s Hospital and to pack for a week,” Suzanne Booher said.

Caulin was admitted immediately and thus started a long road of inpatient treatment. He did not respond as expected and it was discovered that he had a genetic translocation that ultimately required a bone marrow transplant. After five months of treatment to reduce the cancer cells at Dayton Children’s Hospital, Caulin was transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. His immune system had to be completely wiped out with radiation and intense chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant.

“It was rough, really rough,” Suzanne Booher said of the entire process. “Caulin was in total isolation for about a month.”

Only Caulin’s parents and grandparents could visit him during that time. His sister, Madison, could only visit via the iPad and FaceTime. The physicians in charge of his care wanted to ensure that despite his isolation, Caulin would “stay a kid.” So that is just what he did. Armed with games, puzzles, Nerf balls and a daily tutor so he could keep up with schoolwork, Caulin tried to keep a sense of normalcy even on really tough days when he felt very sick.

“It was planning for ‘when we get out’ that helped Caulin the most,” Suzanne Booher said. “Looking forward to his Special Wish was so huge for us and what kept him focused.”

Things were really starting to improve and in November of 2012, Caulin was able to go home. Unfortunately, he developed what can be a typical response to the bone marrow transplant. Medication to slow it down was ineffective and the condition progressed. So, not only was Caulin fighting leukemia, now he also had to battle a rare type of lymphoma.

“It was absolutely heartbreaking. He was back in isolation for another 45 days and spent the holidays and his tenth birthday away from home,” remembers Caulin’s parents.

After a subsequent cancer treatment that caused a very bad reaction and put Caulin in the ICU, his physicians were shocked that his cancer was gone after only one treatment. So after a year of intense medical care, several scares and his family being apart almost constantly, Caulin’s treatment was over and he has been home ever since, getting good results at every check-up appointment.

Strong enough to travel in May of 2014, Caulin had his Special Wish granted and the family traveled to Florida, staying at Give Kids The World Village and visiting Walt Disney World and other attractions in the area. The favorite of all four of them was a day spent at Discovery Cove. They all agreed that swimming with the dolphins was the highlight of an amazing trip.

“The trip was so much more than we could have ever done on our own,” Suzanne Booher said. “The staff at A Special Wish and Give Kids The World gave us an awesome experience. We were treated like royalty.”

Caulin starts seventh grade this coming fall and his parents are enjoying watching — “in awe” — as he redevelops into an active young man, busy with soccer and golf and having just completed his first 5K.

The Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation, Inc. exists to grant the wishes to special children through the generosity of the Dayton region. If you are interested in getting involved or to make a donation in honor of Caulin’s recovery, www.aspecialwish.org.

Susan Gnann is the marketing and development manager for the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation.