When Arnet Givargiznia talks about his son he uses words like brave, compassionate, and bright so often, it's easy to forget that he's talking about a six-year-old boy. But then, Dylan Givargiznia is not a typical six-year-old. Sure, he loves to play video games, read books and laugh at jokes little boys find funny, but Dylan also has to undergo regular chemotherapy treatments, has limited contact with the outside world, and knows far too much about leukemia than a little boy should.
Dylan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April and has been undergoing treatment at the University of California San Francisco. Along with an aggressive form of chemotherapy, Dylan has to have regular blood and platelet transfusions.
To help with the transfusions the Assyrian-American Community of Stanislaus County is hosting a blood drive along with Delta Blood Bank for Dylan. The drive will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.. on Monday at the Assyrian-American Civic Club on North Golden State Boulevard. Donors must be at least 17 years old or 16 with parental and physician consent, be 110 pounds, and be in general good health.
Dylan was like other kids his age; he liked to run and play, he was energetic and his teacher described him as “vivacious” Arnet said. Then, Arnet began to notice changes in Dylan. He wasn't as active as before and he started complaining of pain in his legs. Doctor after doctor told his father that it was nothing more than growing pains and that it would pass. But when the pain became so intense that Dylan couldn't walk, Arnet knew it had to be something more.
Doctors thought it might be arthritis and a bone scan was performed. Later, in the early evening hours, Arnet was contacted by Memorial Hospital and told that he had to get Dylan to UCSF immediately.
“I still didn't know what was going on at that point,” Arnet said. “I was still thinking it was arthritis.”
It was 3 a.m. when Arnet finally learned what had been plaguing his son for the last three months. He had cancer and it had spread to 90 percent of his body. The cancer had condensed his bones to the point that it was like having broken legs.
Arnet was then faced with the overwhelming task of explaining the diagnosis to Dylan.
“I never lied to him,” Arnet said. “He asked if he was dying and I just told him to focus on getting better. When I explained to him that it was just one of those things that happened to some children, he said he would rather get it than some other kid.”
Now, Dylan's days are primarily spent battling the disease. He takes a daily regiment of pills and once a week he makes the trip over to UCSF where he has chemotherapy drugs injected surgically into his spine or through a shunt in his chest.
“It's ironic because when you first have a child you go around your house and make sure all the poisons are locked away,” Arnet said. “Now, I have to give him this poison daily.”
Dylan has been classified as a slow-responder, meaning his body is not responding to the treatments like it should. Arnet said typically it takes the body 28 days of chemotherapy to enter into a chemical remission. It has taken Dylan four and a half months.
Arnet wants Dylan to know he understands everything he is going through, so he has tried every medication Dylan takes and he shaved his head when Dylan lost his hair.
“I call him baldy, but he say's to me, at least mine will grow back,” Arnet said. “He's like my best friend.
“It really touches your heart to see the father and son relationship,” Janet Atanous, who organized the blood drive said.
Though the cancer has left Dylan's body weak, his father said it has done nothing to damper his spirit.
“It's just in his nature to be upbeat and giving,” Arnet said. “He likes to meet all the new kids on the ward and gives them advice on how to deal with pain of the treatments.”
“He always has a smile on his face,” said Atanous. “You'd never know he was sick. He's a six-year-old angel living amongst us.”
The giving spirit is abundant in Dylan said his father. He was recently visited by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and asked for a Gameboy, even though he was playing with one at the time. When the Gameboy arrived, Arnet said Dylan gave it to another little boy on the ward because he didn't have one and he wasn't a candidate for the foundation because he has an identical twin brother who can be used as a donor.
“He is my hero,” Arnet said.
Dylan has plans of one day becoming a scientist and conducting research that would lead to a cure for cancer.
“I don't care if he becomes a garbage man,” Arnet said. “Just as long as he grows up.”
In addition to the blood drive, a trust fund has been set up for Dylan. Donations can be sent to Dylan Arnet Givargiznia Trust at Farmers and Merchants Bank, 2340 Geer Rd. Turlock, CA. 95382. The trust fund helps pay for travel and medical expenses that insurance does not cover.