FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Since he was an infant, 18-year-old Michael Balthazar has been battling sickle cell disease, a group of blood disorders that can cause a number of health problems.
The disease hit him especially hard in 2012 when he was just 10 years old.
“Most of my body just shut down. I was in and out of a coma. I felt so much physical pain I sort of got used to it,” Balthazar said.
Add to that another health crisis. For over a year, Balthazar has been fighting a cancerous mass near his spine called a neuroblastoma, which doctors at Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital said is rare for someone of his age with sickle cell disease.
“Normally neuroblastoma is a very rare cancer that usually happens in children and he’s not a child anymore, he’s a teenager,” said Dr. Hector Rodriguez-Cortes, a hematologist-oncologist with Broward Health.
Balthazar has undergone two surgeries to remove the tumor and faces a third surgery to remove the remaining portion.
“And after that we’re planning to have a stem cell transplant on him. That will be the best combination for him to have a very good outcome,” Rodriguez-Cortes said.
Balthazar has had some major milestones recently, including graduating from Coconut Creek High School and earning a certificate in computer technology.
He said his positive outlook propels him forward.
“At this point, I just go with the flow,” he said. “I go head first into every day, day in and day out, and I’m just happy I get to see the next day and the day after that.”