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A 9-year-old boy learns to be a superhero with the help of a friendly waiter.

The world would be a much brighter place if we all showed one another this type of kindness.

A 9-year-old boy learns to be a superhero with the help of a friendly waiter.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Oscar underwent open-heart surgery when he was just six days old.

He was born with the condition transposition of the great arteries.

"His father and I faced an uncertain future with our newborn son," Oscar's mom, Jeni, told me via email. "Our world wasn't just turned upside down — it was inside out and shaken around and very confusing."


Here's Oscar, the day after his surgery. All photos courtesy of Jen Goodhand-Wyatt.

Thanks to help from Heart Link Children's Charity, Jeni and her husband were given accommodations near the hospital to stay near their young son as he worked through the early stages of recovery. The charity also helped by providing some of the equipment Oscar would need for his long-term survival.

Now 9 years old, Oscar is alive and well, though he has to meet with a cardiologist from time to time.

Earlier this week, during an appointment with his cardiologist, Oscar was devastated to learn that he couldn't practice karate.

So on the way home, Jeni decided to stop at the local TGI Fridays for dinner.

What happened next changed the course of a sad, stressful day and transformed it into something amazing.

Oscar meets with his cardiologist before setting off for dinner.

The experience at TGI Fridays turned the day around, and Oscar learned a wonderful lesson.

Here's the story, as posted to Jeni's Facebook page and republished here with permission:

"So here's a happy post. We went to TGI on our way home from the hospital. Before taking Oscar in I went in to check that there were no Halloween decorations (Os is petrified of Halloween). I explained his ASD and the gent on reception was great saying I could choose where we sat so Os was happy. Well, it had to be the Star Wars table didn't it and I said he was a Star Wars loving superhero."

ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. "Oscar is a sensory seeker (part of autism), and as a result can be a messy eater," Jeni told Upworthy. So dining out isn't something the family does often because people can be quite rude.

"About six months ago in a local pub we actually had a family move from sitting next to us and we heard the words 'disgusting' used in reference to Oscar. He's far from disgusting — he just thoroughly enjoys his food and finds it hard to control his body when it's THAT good!"

But Oscar had gotten some bad news that morning about not being able to practice his karate, and he deserved a lunch out.

Os seated happily at the "Star Wars" booth with a Chewbacca doll.

"Fast forward ten mins and the waitress comes over and says 'I understand you're a superhero. Here's your menu.' Os was a bit bummed as today the cardiologist said he couldn't do Karate because of his heart... In his mind that means he's not a superhero. So I explained his sad face to the perplexed waitress and ordered food.

Dinner arrived and then a new waiter came over. 'Is your dinner ok!' Os replied 'It's only just got here silly!' and laughed. The waiter smiled and walked away. He returned moments later with two balloon models he'd made for Os."

Balloon animals!

"A little while later he came over and asked me if he could buy a pudding, any pudding off the menu, for Os. Well there was no stopping Boo... Chocolate Brownie it was! When he served it I asked why. 'Because he's a superhero!' was [the waiter's] reply.

And on the bill... SUPERHERO was the discount given."

Superhero discount, right there in writing:

Oscar's mom finishes her Facebook post with a thank you to the wait staff:

"Fantastic service. Thank you so very much from a mum who has had an emotional roller-coaster of a day and from a boy who is now sleeping soundly with a belly full of chocolate brownie."

Upworthy reached out to TGI Fridays Director of Culture and People Development Jacqui McManus about Oscar's story.

“We're very proud of our Fridays Family, who always work hard to go above and beyond, and we believe that this is a great example of what we always look for from our team members," she wrote in a statement provided to Upworthy.

"Team members are encouraged to bring their personality to every shift and tailor the experience for every guest. Ryan and the team at Coventry did a wonderful job offering the Fridays experience to Oscar, our new Fridays Superhero."

From this experience, Oscar has learned that a real superhero comes from within, not from karate.

"Although I was choking back the tears after an emotional day, it was lovely to see Os and his cuddly Chewbacca toy enjoying himself without worrying," Jeni told Upworthy.

"He didn't really realize the impact he'd had on [the waiter]," Jeni said. With her Facebook post about their lunch at over 10,000 Likes, she says Os is starting to understand that a "real 'superhero' comes from within and he must be a superhero if he made so many people smile."

Oscar and his sister Faith ride a carousel.

For less than $4, some balloons, and friendly service, a little boy and his mother's day was made.

It really is the little things in life that make such a huge difference. The world would be a much brighter place if we all showed one another this type of kindness.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."