Bubba’s message for leukemia patients: ‘Stay strong’

LLS Light the Night Walk is set for October 14 in Portland

Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)
Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Lucian Velasco lit up as he talked about his favorite things: video games and origami.

“One year for Christmas I just got a few papers and an instruction sheet for a box and I made that. And it was, like, super fun. I”ve just loved origami since then, so I just went online and found other things.

Asked if he has a favorite video game, he smiled and said, “No. All of them.”

Learn more: LLS Light the Night Walk, October 14

Lucian — a 13-year-old 8th-grader in Hillsboro who goes by Bubba, a nickname his younger brother gave him — also loves pink and decided to have some fun with it.

“All my hair is going to fall out in the hospital, so I just decided to have fun, dye it pink,” he told KOIN 6 News.

In 2016, Bubba was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer that shocked his family when he was diagnosed. A few days after he spoke with KOIN 6 News, Bubba began a lengthy hospital stay as he undergoes a bone marrow transplant.

Elizabeth Velasco's son Lucian is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)
Elizabeth Velasco’s son Lucian is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)

His mom, Elizabeth Velasco, felt lost and devastated when Bubba was diagnosed.

“It was the worst day of my life. Everything now is kind of a blur,” Elizabeth said. “When I was in high school, I had a friend who had leukemia. He didn’t make it. So I’ve always been scared that Lucian was going to be the same way.”

She began researching how to help and support her son and found the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I said, OK, this is something. They’re fighting blood cancer so we can see what we can do to help them, because there’s so much they can do to help us.”

Elizabeth said Bubba has taught her quite a bit. “He’s the 2nd of 4 kids and he’s shown me that I can deal with more than I thought I could in having a child with cancer.”

She said she hopes the bone marrow transplant will improve his immune system “and kick the rest of the cancer out, and that he can grow up and be a normal kid.”

Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)
Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)

A year ago, Bubba and his family took part in the LLS Light the Night Walk, which raises money for research and celebrates and commemorates lives touched by cancer.

“It’s awesome. There’s, like, lights everywhere as lighting up the night,” Bubba said. “It’s bringing a light to the darkness of cancer.”

This year, Bubba was named the honored hero by LLS, which Elizabeth said is “amazing.”

“I mean, LLS has done so much for so many people, and for him it’s been an amazing experience.”

Even though his current treatment means he can’t take part in the walk, Bubba will be watching from his window at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

“There’s a window that looks out over the Tilikum Crossing and he’ll be able to see all the people,” Elizabeth said. “There’s a lot of love in that night, and I hope he can see that a lot of that love is for him.”

He’ll be in the hospital at least a month-and-a-half and said he doesn’t mind losing his hair. “It’s a lot easier to take care of.”

He said his mom and his sister also have dyed hair and he likes how it brings a smile to other people.

For others in his position, Bubba has a simple message:

“Stay strong.”

Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)
Lucian Velasco is undergoing a bone marrow transplant at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, September 2017 (KOIN)

An update

On September 11, Bubba had his bone marrow transplant surgery, and “he came through with flying colors,” said Rhonda Adler with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He also began his first round of chemotherapy.

Lucian Velasco, also known as Bubba, in his room at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. (Undated courtesy photo from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)
Lucian Velasco, also known as Bubba, in his room at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. (Undated courtesy photo from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)