Julian White says he has never let cancer stop him from doing anything. So, as a lifelong Lakers fan, of course nothing would prevent him from enjoying a behind-the-scenes game experience as the UCLA Health Laker for a Day.
Doctors diagnosed Julian with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer, in January 2016. He has been receiving treatment at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital ever since, undergoing chemotherapy, blood and platelet transfusions, diagnostic imaging and other treatment procedures, including spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies.
“It’s been a journey,” says Julian, now 16.
Julian has been unable to attend school regularly due to a weakened immune system from the treatment. That often means restricting visitors at his home to protect his health. “The toughest thing about it is not being able to really do anything about it and just hoping, hoping, that he does not get discouraged,” says his father, Ron White, who joined Julian at the Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 24th.
Julian attended games as a youngster with his father, so coming back to STAPLES Center was a symbolic way to celebrate the strength and determination he has displayed throughout his recovery. He toured the Chairman’s Lounge, met Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss and watched pregame warm-ups courtside before being recognized during a halftime presentation.
Since first coming to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, Julian and his family have met many members of his interdisciplinary care team, building relationships that no doubt will last beyond his three-year treatment plan. Julian hopes his experience can have a positive impact on others who are facing a similar recovery process.
“Being Laker for a Day means that I have an opportunity to give kids who might have what I have hope,” he says. “Or give them someone to look up to, saying, ‘Oh, he did it. So I can do it.’”
For more information about UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, visit uclahealth.org/mattel