A year ago, Abi Cruz had bone cancer and was too sick to fully participate in Cardinal Newman School’s annual dance marathon.
But this year is a different story, thanks to her care at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and the work of Dr. Ron Neuberg, a doctor she said “never treated me like I was sick.”
Abi, 16, finished her last treatment almost a year ago and now is in remission.
She said she’s ready to dance the full eight hours with fellow students at the marathon, set for Saturday.
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She wanted to give Neuberg a special thank you. And, since he has a busy schedule and likely would not be able to make it to the marathon, Abi decided to bring a bit of the party to him – in the form of a flash mob, right there at Children’s Hospital.
Wednesday morning, Abi met Neuberg in the lobby. When he first saw her, Abi said, he looked worried.
“‘Oh gosh what’s wrong?’ that’s what his face said,” Abi said. But any hint of worry faded quickly when Abi began to explain the marathon, which raises money for Children’s Hospital.
Then, as music began to play, about 30 of her fellow Cardinal Newman students ran out of a side room dancing and wearing animal masks, part of this year’s “Going Wild to Save a Child” marathon theme.
Neuberg was given a cow mask. Abi wore a cat mask.
The students had choreographed moves for a seven-minute mashup of popular songs.
Neuberg tapped his foot as he watched. But soon enough, Abi got him to dance: “If you want to call it that,” Neuberg said. “I didn’t get the dance gene.”
That can-do, positive attitude is something Neuberg brings to his job every day as director for the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Neuberg said a positive attitude helps his young patients tolerate hospitalizations and have fewer side effects to chemotherapy treatments.
He said he never refers to his patients as cancer patients.
Instead he calls them children with cancer.
“They are first children,” he said, adding that having fun is a kid’s job, aside from school.
Abi said the process of finishing her last treatment and the progress she has made in the past year has been empowering.
“Abi has been a trooper throughout her treatment,” Neuberg said.
Abi’s mom was equally complimentary of Neuberg, who she said was spectacular along with his staff.
“I can’t call them a medical team, we call them family,” Peatra Cruz said.