Benefit to help super-hero-loving 6-year-old


Six-year-old Aden Stephens has fought Stage 4 neuroblastoma for more than half his life. Photo courtesy Lydia Stephens

SANTA CLAUS — When he hoists Captain America’s trademark shield, Aden Stephens’ shaved head and tiny feet are the only parts of his 6-year-old body that peek out from behind the patriotic barrier.

He has fought Stage 4 neuroblastoma for more than half his life. He loves super heroes — the Incredible Hulk is currently his favorite — and his mother, Lydia, thinks her son is as strong as any you can find in a comic book.

“He’s a very grown up little kid,” she said.

The pint-sized warrior is now in his third bout with cancer, which has scattered across limbs and inside his little body. In the past two months, the cancer went from almost being in remission to coming back worse than ever before.

But neither Aden nor Lydia are giving up.

Saturday, American Legion Post 242 in Santa Claus will host a benefit for Aden, with all proceeds going to him and his family to help with medical bills and expenses. The event will take place from 1 to 9 p.m. CT.

“It means the world to us,” Lydia said, thinking about the community coming together to help her family. “It helps us with our travel expenses. It helps with me not having to leave the hospital to go to work while he’s there. I get to stay with him.”

She concluded: “I don’t have to worry about ... leaving him by himself. It’s going to help so much.”

Aden Stephens

The boy is a kindergartener at Petersburg Elementary School. Lydia lives in Gentryville, and Aden’s father, Aaron, lives in Petersburg. Both parents shoulder the costs of his medical bills.

Aden began chemotherapy again in January, and he is currently traveling to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis on weekdays for radiation therapy. He will head to Cincinnati in the coming months for a trial treatment plan that will pinpoint the location of cancerous cells he’s carrying and blast them with high doses of radiation from inside his body.

Following that procedure, Aden will become temporarily radioactive, which will bring big changes to his life for some time. He will be quarantined for a week after it ends, and other precautions will be taken for a couple of weeks after he leaves the hospital.

“It’s going to be definitely challenging for him not to be able to touch anybody or be around anybody at all,” Lydia said. She added that the procedure shouldn’t make him feel too sick, however.

According to Herald archives, Aden was initially diagnosed with neuroblastoma in November 2014. Lydia said her son — who was 2 years old at the time — wasn’t eating or drinking much, and also struggled to make little movements, like turning his head, due to pain. After conducting scans of his body, staff at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper discovered the mass inside Aden.

He entered remission about 14 months later on his birthday in January 2016. During that 14-month span, the boy experienced five rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, 10 days of radiation therapy and immunotherapy to kill the remaining cancer cells in his body.

The cancer was in remission for about 1 1/2 years, returning as a brain tumor in August 2017. It was removed, and after receiving a trial treatment in New York City, Aden again entered remission. The cancer came back once again last month.

“He was feeling great, so he was going to school and kind of being a normal kid again, even though he was missing [school] to go to New York every once and awhile,” Lydia said of Aden’s life before the cancer resurfaced. “He was feeling good. But I think being away from school and away from his friends has kind of been hard on him just because he realizes what a real child gets to be like now.”

Saturday’s benefit will include dinners, live music from a few bands, a raffle and a silent auction. Those who can’t attend and want to help, can donate money to the family through a GoFundMe page,

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