‘Help Sean and our family’: DODEA teachers’ daughter launches fundraiser for brother’s cancer treatment

Sean Pine spends time afloat while traveling to San Diego for immunotherapy treatment in April 2021. (Kristin Pine-Duarte)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Sean Pine loves playing video games on his Nintendo Switch and chatting with his friends online.

But the 10-year-old has spent the past three months in a hospital bed at Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Medical Center battling stage four neuroblastoma and is heading to San Diego for further treatment. His mother and father are educators at the Department of Defense Education Activity in Yokota.

Gianna Duarte, 20, Sean’s sister, has staged a campaign on GoFundMe to help cover some of the costs of treatment, food and transportation as the only son of four continues his ongoing battle with cancer. Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous system that primarily affects children age 5 and younger, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

“I hope to get some help for my parents to ease some of the financial burden so they can get some relief,” Gianna wrote on the GoFundMe page, “Help Sean and our family.

Since Friday, the campaign has raised $8,210 of the $20,000 goal.

Sean Pine pets O'Malley, the family cat, at his home at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, in January 2022.

Sean Pine pets O’Malley, the family cat, at his home at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, in January 2022. (Kristin Pine-Duarte)

Sean Pine and his mother, Kristen Pine-Duarte, on a trip to San Diego for immunotherapy treatment in April 2021.

Sean Pine and his mother, Kristen Pine-Duarte, on a trip to San Diego for immunotherapy treatment in April 2021. (Kristin Pine-Duarte)

Sean was diagnosed when he was 2 years old, Sean’s father Michael Pine, 53, a math major and San Diego native, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

“It’s one of the deadliest childhood cancers,” he said. “But what is promising is that he continues to defy the odds.”

Sean is in his fifth episode of neuroblastoma and his kidneys are failing, his father said. When Japanese doctors told the family there was nothing more they could do for Sean, his parents decided to take him to a specialist, Dr. Peter Zage, at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

Sean’s cancer returned in October and since then Japanese and American doctors have been treating him so he can travel safely to San Diego during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pines traveled back and forth to Rady Children’s Hospital for Sean’s treatment.

“For the last three months, we’ve been fighting just to get to the point where we can get him out of the country,” Michael Pine said.

The father and son are due to fly to the United States on Tuesday with the help of the International Health Care Clinic. Due to Sean’s medical condition, he must be on an intravenous drip and be accompanied by a doctor and a nurse.

Each time Sean relapses, the family of six spends between $30,000 and $40,000, after insurance, for treatment, transportation, hotels and food. A vaccine that helps Sean restore his bone marrow is costing the family $700 a month, his father said.

“So one of the hardest parts of this whole thing has been that it’s a family disease,” her mother, Kristin Pine-Duarte, 45, a San Diego native and schoolteacher, said Thursday. third grade at Yokota West Elementary School. . “It impacts everyone. And we have three other girls that we thought might be trying to get back to the States, but financially it would devastate us.

The family also stayed in Japan because Sean is storing stem cells there. When Sean relapses, he receives stem cells to increase his bone marrow count.

Alan Retzlaff, 28, a family friend from Coolup, Australia, donated $500 to Sean’s GoFundMe campaign, he told Stars and Stripes via Facebook Messenger on June 6.

Retzlaff has known Sean’s parents since his first trip to Japan in 2017, he told Stars and Stripes on Monday. Retzlaff met the Pine-Duartes during a month-long trip to Japan in 2017, after which they stayed in touch.

“I donated this amount of money on behalf of myself and my family,” Retzlaff said. “Michael and Kristin have hearts of gold and deserve all the support they can get.”


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