The things that happen: Two boys and cancer



Story by Julia O'Malley | Photos by Marc Lester

class="copy intro"

Writer Julia O'Malley and photographer Marc Lester spent a year following teenage best friends Steve Vue and Mitchell Xayapraseuth after both were diagnosed with rare childhood cancers. This is the story of their treatment and how they and their families dealt with and explained what happened to them.


Chapter one: A bad feeling - In late 2011, Steve Vue, a junior at Service High School, is diagnosed

with a rare childhood cancer. A few weeks later, his best friend, Mitchell Xayapraseuth, says he is having strange, troubling symptoms.


Chapter two: Luck goes bad - Mitchell’s mysterious health problems get worse. Then doctors give him unbelievable news.


Chapter three: What spirits expect - The doctors say Steve Vue’s medical prognosis is good, but the shaman

tells his family he still has a spiritual debt to pay.


Chapter four: The worth of a boy - The Hmong community gathers for a ceremonial sacrifice at Steve’s

house. Mitchell awaits news from doctors about whether his treatment



Chapter five: Cancer ghosts - Mitchell finally gets cancer news. Will he live at the Buddhist temple

as his family expects? Both boys look toward the future.

class="copy video"

Video: Part 1 - One teenager getting cancer is rare. Two best friends getting diagnosed at the same time seems impossible. That's what happened to Steve Vue and Mitchell Xayapraseuth. They boys talk about the experience of going through treatment together and returning to normal teenage life.

class="copy video"

Video: Part 2 - After extensive, successful cancer treatment, Steve and Mitchell's families urged the boys to be part of spiritual rituals to show gratitude for their good luck. The boys learn what's expected according to Hmong and Lao traditions.