NEW DELHI: The now famous Humans Of New York is perhaps one of the best examples of returning journalism to its roots. It tells the stories of people, in their own words, with the journalist -- Brandon Stanton -- editorially deciding what larger issues to turn his lens and pen to. In the past, HONY has featured the stories of migrants and refugees fleeing wars in South Asia, West Asia and Africa and making their way to Europe. He’s travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in an effort to bring to the world the lives of everyday people.

HONY’s latest series focuses on something very different. “Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting stories gathered from the Pediatrics Department of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Obviously these are not going to be easy stories to read. These are war stories. The treatment of cancer can be nearly as violent as the condition itself, and even the doctors will frame their efforts in terms of warfare. But the fight against pediatric cancer is uniquely tragic because the battlefield is the body of a child. So these are definitely war stories. But as with every war, there are heroes. You’ll meet the amazing doctors, nurses, and researchers who have committed their lives to this fight. You’ll meet the moms and dads who refuse to crumble while living out their greatest fear. And most importantly, you’ll meet the reason that everyone is fighting, and the greatest warriors of all—the kids. So yes, these are war stories. But this is also the story of humanity’s bold response to the greatest injustice of nature. And as we learn these stories, we’ll be raising money to play our own small part in the war,” says the announcement for the series.

So far, the series has raised almost $2 million through about 55,000 donations. Here are some of the stories:



"Max had two mothers. We found a sperm donor and I gave birth to him through IVF. He was actually a twin. I decided to reduce the pregnancy because I was scared at the time. I didn't think I could handle twins. And that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life. Max was such a sweet child. I was a bit of a hard ass on him. I wanted to be sure that I gave him boundaries because I never had them growing up. But I think it brought us closer together. Because he knew I’d always protect him. And he was so protective of me too. But in such a sweet way. He’d hold my face in his hands. God he was so sweet. Just such a nice guy. So funny. He loved to laugh. His bedroom was close to ours and we used to hear him in there late at night, laughing by himself."

“One of Max’s eyes started crossing over when he turned six years old. But I wasn’t too worried. He’d been such a healthy kid. I thought maybe he was developing a bit of a lazy eye. But the doctor started getting really uncomfortable during our appointment. He scheduled an MRI for the next day, and he told me: ‘Let’s not be too worried. I’m going to sleep well tonight.’ It was such a weird thing to say. Right? I had been completely relaxed until he said that. We got the MRI early the next morning, and I went to work. The results came in a few hours later. They called me while I was walking down the street. I just collapsed on the sidewalk.”



"There was a tumor in his brain. The doctor told us that he knew what it was. He said it was called DIPG and that he hadn’t found anything that worked. He said it would eventually kill him. And I started screaming. And I asked how long. And he told us a year. He told us that ‘doing nothing’ was an acceptable choice. And he said, ‘This will be harder on you than it is on Max.’ And I remember looking at Max. And he was so beautiful. All he had was that crossed eye. Our life had been beautiful and now everything sucked. I didn’t know what to do. So we went to the Lego store. He was obsessed with Legos. That night he got so many Legos.”



“I think I have post traumatic stress. I have so many horrible flashbacks. Two weeks after Max was diagnosed, he asked me if I’d be his Mommy forever. I said, ‘Of course I will.’ And he asked: ‘Even when I’m ninety?’ And I told him ‘yes.’ What was I supposed to say? And there were all the times he talked to me about the future. We’d talk about college. I just couldn’t tell him. God I was such a coward. I should have told him. I just couldn’t do it. Even toward the end. The day before he lost consciousness, I read his favorite book to him. It’s called Runaway Bunny. And the little bunny keeps threatening to run away. And the Mama bunny keeps saying: ‘Wherever you go, I will find you.’ Oh God, it was such a horrible way to die. He couldn’t speak or move or swallow or see. He basically starved to death. And the whole last week I’m whispering in his ear: ‘Let go, let go. Please Max, let go.’ My seven-year-old son. I’m telling him to let go. I mean, fuck. That’s not supposed to happen! And the whole time I never told him he was dying. I was such a coward. But he knew. He knew without me telling him. Because a couple weeks before he lost his speech, he asked me: ‘Mommy, do they speak English where I’m going?’”

“I used to be a really happy person. I really was. I was the person who would walk outside and say: ‘Isn’t everything beautiful? Isn’t life wonderful? Aren’t we so lucky?’ I don’t have that sense of joy anymore. I remember the Mother’s Day before Max was diagnosed. It was four years ago. We were in this same park. On the lawn over there. It was beautiful. All three of us were there. Irene and I were in love. And Max was lying on my feet and pretending to fly in the air. And he was laughing so hard and I remember feeling so happy and full of life. It was the last moment that I truly felt joy.”



“Sebastian was diagnosed when he was twenty months old. He needed several rounds of chemo just to shrink the tumor to the size of an orange. He couldn’t eat for fifteen days because they didn’t want to feed the tumor. He was in so much pain. The lining of his stomach had burned away. Every time he woke up, I’d just rock him back to sleep. I never wanted him to be awake. I was hoping so hard that he was still young enough to forget everything. But the cancer kept coming back. And he grew old enough to realize he was sick. And that broke my heart. I was up with him one night after the cancer came back again. He’d already had six surgeries at this point and we were doing more chemotherapy. He was throwing up and had diarrhea. I felt so bad for him. And I was so tired and felt so guilty for neglecting my other children. And Sebastian said to me, ‘I’m so happy, Mommy.’ And I was so confused because I couldn’t understand how he could possibly be happy. Then he smiled, and said: ‘Because I love you so much.’”



“She came back from soccer practice one day, limping and crying. And we knew something wasn’t right because Grace is tough. The doctors thought it was a pulled muscle at first but when they gave her the MRI, they could see stuff in her bones. They said it wasn’t leukemia, and we thought: ‘Thank God.’ But then they told us it was neuroblastoma. Stage four, high risk-- as if stage four wasn’t bad enough, they had to add an extra label. I was so scared during our first meeting that I put a statue of the Virgin Mary on the table. I thought maybe it would protect us. The doctors started going through the treatment plan. They told us percentages but I didn’t want to listen. They might know about cancer but they didn’t know Grace. So I didn’t want to hear it. Two weeks after the diagnosis, a friend wrote Grace a really nice letter of encouragement. It basically said: ‘I had stage two cancer, and everything turned out just fine!’ Grace folded up the letter, and asked me: ‘Mom, what stage do I have?’ And I told her: ‘Four.’ And she said, ‘How many stages are there?’ I wanted so bad to say: ‘One hundred and fifty.’ But I had to tell her the truth.”

“The radiation was so strong that I couldn’t sit next to her for two weeks. But Grace handled all her treatment so well. She named her new dog after the chemotherapy medicine. She’d walk through the lobby of the hospital, and she’d see kids who’d lost limbs, or had brain surgery, and she’d say: ‘I’m so lucky.’ But when the treatment was over, the doctors did another scan, and nothing had changed. They told me: ‘We’re no longer treating her to cure her.’ In the beginning they were so optimistic. They were telling me about all these options and all this stuff they were going to do. And now they were telling me to give up. And I’m looking at Grace. And she looks OK. She looks strong. She doesn’t look like the girl that I’m reading about in these medical charts. But they’re telling me to give up on her. They’re saying our goal is to keep her as comfortable as possible. Keep her comfortable? What do you mean? What are you trying to say? I’ll never forget that day. The doctor told me: ‘Let’s not worry about this afternoon’s appointment. Go home and have some fun.”



“I wasn’t going to give up. We tried taking Grace to another hospital but they told us the same thing: ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ But then we brought her to Sloan, and they told us: ‘We think there’s one more thing we can try.’ It was an experimental antibody called Humanized 3F8. It triggered Grace’s immune system to attack her cancer. It was so painful. It felt like she was getting a root canal over her entire body. After two rounds of treatment they did another scan. They wanted to see if there was any progress. The therapy was so painful that if it wasn’t working they wanted to stop. They called me in the office to give me the results. They told Grace to wait outside. I was so nervous. I could barely stand. When I walked in, nobody was saying anything at first. I thought: ‘Oh, God. They don’t want to tell me.’ Suddenly they said: ‘This is amazing. It’s never happened before.’ And they held up her scan and the cancer was gone. It had been everywhere: her pelvis, her skull, her bones, her arms. And now it was gone. All of us started crying.”



“I want to be a pediatric surgeon. Our friend Mark is a surgeon and he told me all about it. Being a pediatric surgeon will be hard because you never want to hurt kids. You just want to cuddle them and hold them. But saving them is most important so it’s something you have to do. Also blood doesn’t bother me like it bothers my brother—and he’s sixteen! One time he got blood work done and he was so scared that he curled his toes and his hands. It doesn’t bother me though. I even had my surgeon film my surgery for me because I wanted to see his techniques. When I asked him, he was like: ‘Nobody’s ever asked that before.’ And I said: ‘Please? We can use my brother’s GoPro.’”