In March of 2011, Hudson Kent was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 15 months. With the expert care that he received at CHOC, he successfully underwent four surgeries and six months of chemotherapy before the age of 3.
Today, Hudson is now 12 years cancer free and an active 13-year-old. He loves to play baseball, hang out with friends and try new foods. He also loves raising awareness for CHOC: for many years, the Kent family — Eby, Mark, Troy, Hudson and Cole — has participated in CHOC’s Annual fundraiser, CHOC Walk in the Park.
Presented by Disneyland®Resort, CHOC Walk in the Park brings the community together for one goal — to raise funds for programs, education and research for Southern California’s kids.
Hudson’s cancer journey begins at just 15 months
When Hudson was born, Eby and Mark say that it was easy; he was a healthy baby.
At his 15-month check up, Eby and Mark asked Hudson’s pediatrician about a lump they had found on his stomach. After receiving an ultrasound, Eby received an urgent call with words no parent ever wants to hear: “I think your son has cancer.”
That day, Eby and Hudson went straight to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC.
Even in such a scary time, Eby says, “From the moment we walked through the doors at CHOC, we felt safe and welcomed.”
There, Dr. Elyssa Rubin, pediatric oncologist, determined that Hudson had a Wilms tumor, a rare kidney cancer that mainly affects children. It would require surgery to remove it.
Dr. Rubin swiftly scheduled Hudson’s surgery and made sure to explain the whole process to Eby.
“The first time we met Dr. Rubin, she had such a professional approach, but a very parent-to-parent approach as well,” says Eby.
Hudson had his surgery on March 17, 2011.
Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon at CHOC, performed the surgery but warned Eby and Mark that she may not be able to remove the entirety of the tumor on the first try.
Fortunately, Dr. Gholizadeh was able to remove the entirety of Hudson’s tumor; yet because the tumor was so large — roughly the size of a cantaloupe — Hudson needed to have chemotherapy to ensure that all the cancer cells were killed during the tumor’s removal.
At just 15 months old, Hudson began a six-month chemotherapy treatment process.
Numerous CHOC visits and chemotherapy treatments
Eby and Mark are awed by Hudson’s bravery during that time, especially at such a young age.
“When Hudson needed a scan or his blood drawn, he would take a few deep breaths and be patient while the nurse did what they needed to do,” says Eby. “Afterwards, he would thank each nurse for helping him.”
Over the next few years, Hudson routinely visited CHOC for checkups. He looked forward to his appointments because he got to see his friends — the CHOC staff.
“The doctors and nurses were kind of amazing. My mom told me about a red wagon that the child life specialists used to pull me around to see the doctors. And that I would run down the hallway,” says Hudson.
The Kent family credit their positive CHOC memories to the entire staff — from the receptionists, nurses, child life, oncology nurse coordinator Megan Beckerle and physicians like Drs. Rubin and Gholizadeh — during every blood draw, infusion, CT scan, X-ray and chemotherapy treatment.
While Hudson was in treatment, his younger brother Cole was born.
“The staff would always like to see how much Cole had grown between appointments,” says Eby. “They felt like family.”
Hudson’s treatment had its fair share of challenges too. The chemotherapy damaged Hudson’s immune system, he never slept well and he was always sick.
A guiding light
Dr. Rubin was constantly problem-solving, trying different strategies to help Hudson get healthy. After some time, Hudson finally started feeling better.
“During this tough time, I talked to a friend who also had a child doing chemotherapy treatments,” says Eby. “I asked her, ‘How are you getting through it?’ She replied, ‘Because CHOC is great. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and trust in them, and everything will be OK.’”
To other families who may be going through a cancer journey, Mark advises, “Keep fighting.”
Eby adds, “Even on your darkest day, there is a light. For us, that was CHOC, our community, our family and our friends. There are people who want to support you. You won’t feel alone if you allow the light to lead.”
“CHOC was our guiding light,” says Eby.
CHOC Walk in the Park serves as powerful reminder
The Kent family’s CHOC Walk team, Team HHK, originated when Hudson was first diagnosed. When friends heard the news, they sprang into action to make t-shirts that said, “Team HHK ‘Say a little prayer for me.’”
Since then, donned in matching superhero themed t-shirts, Team HHK — full of family and friends of the Kents’ — has participated in the CHOC Walk each year.
Dozens of new young members have also joined Team HHK. They are friends, teammates and classmates of Hudson’s, who were inspired to participate because of his encouragement and enthusiasm about the Walk.
“It’s such a fun time to be with friends,” says Hudson.
“One of my favorite CHOC Walk memories was when I was sitting on my dad’s shoulders and the announcer saw my sign and read my name off,” he adds. “Then, he asked me how old I was and how long I had been cancer free.”
Over its 31-year history, the event has raised more than $42 million for Orange County’s only pediatric health system. The event also has the distinction of being the largest and most unique pediatric fundraiser in the nation.
“We always say, ‘when you do the CHOC Walk once, you will do it forever,’” says Mark, Hudson’s dad. “It’s a powerful reminder of how lucky we are that Hudson beat cancer, and it’s an opportunity for us to support families who may have a sick child or have lost a child.”
“The experience is surreal. It’s amazing to see how many people come together to support CHOC,” says Eby, Hudson’s mom.
Join the Kent family at this year’s CHOC Walk in the Park presented by Disneyland®Resort on Sunday, August 20, 2023.