Keizer third grader, cancer survivor turns spokesmodel

Addi Sermon with Christy Perry (right) and Marty Heyen (left) (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Having courage in the face of medical uncertainty is difficult at any age. Addison Sermon knows that as well as anyone.

Back in 2015, when she was just four years old, Addi was diagnosed with cancer and had to endure six months of chemotherapy, as well as radiation treatment.

Despite being so young, the way Addi faced her illness with great bravery and a positive attitude was very admirable. But what has been arguably just as noteworthy is what she has done since be beating cancer. 

The third grader from Clear Lake Elementary often donates her allowance to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland and also serves as a spokesmodel for the Make-A-Wish foundation, which is why she was recognized during the student success spotlight portion of the Salem-Keizer School District Board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12. 

“I just want to encourage and love people who are sick,” Addi said. 

In April of 2015, Addi wasn’t feeling well one night and was rushed to Salem Hospital, with what her parents thought was appendicitis. 

But after going through a litany of tests, doctors informed Addi’s family that she had a Wilms tumor and needed to be transported to Doernbecher — a Wilms tumor is a rare type of kidney cancer.

It was determined that Addi had stage four cancer and that her tumor was ruptured, which meant that she needed to go into surgery. 

After surgery, Addi started her radiation treatment. 

Often times, young children are sedated during radiation treatment. But Addi remained awake and stayed strong through the whole process.

“Doctors had said that she was the youngest patient that they didn’t have to put to sleep. She just laid there still,” said Addi’s mom, Cristi. “I knew she was a strong kid. But I didn’t realize how strong she was until she went through treatments.”

“I was scared, but I kept taking deep breaths and that helped me,” Addi added. 

From there, Addi began a painful regiment of chemotherapy. 

“At night, I would ask God if he could help me with my stomach, because that was the part that was hurting the most,” Addi said. “I kept on praying that the doctors could get the tumor out.” 

Fortunately, Addi’s prayers were answered as she went into remission after six months of chemo.

As part of her recovery, Addi was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation — a nonprofit organization that creates life-changing wishes for children with a critical illness.

Her wish: to be an astronaut doctor. 

“If I were in space and someone got sick, I’d be able to help them by finding cures in outer space. That’s why I wanted to become an astronaut doctor,” Addi said. 

In the spring of 2016, Addi and her family got to spend two days at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando Fla., where she got to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor, have one-on-one time with real astronauts and was shown how to use a control panel. 

Addi also got to go to Disney World during her trip to Florida, with all expenses paid by Make-A-Wish. 

“It was so fun to see her not hooked up to IV’s and instead be learning about something she is passionate about,” Cristi said. 

Through this experience, Addi became a spokesmodel for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and appeared in a segment on KGW-TV for National Make-A-Wish Day last October. She also traveled to Los Angeles, Calif. to be in a Make-A-Wish television commercial with five other kids. 

“I hope that people will donate to help kids that are struggling and help make their wishes come true,” Addi said.

Addi has been cancer-free for about three years now. While she does have some limitations due to only having one kidney, she is competing in swimming for the first time ever and remains an active participant at her school. 

“Addison is a strong student and enjoys being at school. She has a positive attitude about everything,” said Clear Lake principal Artonya Gemmill during the school board meeting. “Thank you Addi for being such an awesome representative for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and for being a great role model for other kids.”