Pediatric cancer survivor from Crystal Lake receives trip of a lifetime from Advocate, Bulls

The Chicago Bulls, Advocate Health Care and former Bull Toni Kukoc surprised a pediatric cancer patient from Crystal Lake with and all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime to see the Bulls play at the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 8.

Raahil Patel, a 13-year-old Bulls fan from Crystal Lake, who has been battling T-cell lymphoma for more than two years, completed his treatment on Friday, Dec. 8, at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge.

After his treatment, Raahil was expecting a typical bell ringing ceremony to celebrate with his family. Instead, he received the surprise of a lifetime when he walked into a Chicago Bulls-themed celebration filled with his family, friends, care team and leaders of Advocate Children's Hospital. Benny the Bull, the IncrediBulls and Kukoc were all on hand as Raahil rang an oversized Chicago Bulls & Advocate branded bell. The surprise also was live streamed to Raahil's family in India.

The surprises didn't stop there, however, as minutes later Raahil found out via a video message from Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan that he would be traveling with the team on an all-expenses paid trip to see the Bulls take on the Hornets in Charlotte on Jan. 8.

At the age of 11 in July 2021, Raahil was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. The first nine months of treatments were intense as he was in and out of the clinic and the hospital either for his chemo treatment, spinal tap, blood/platelet transfer or to treat infections due to low immunity. He kept a positive attitude throughout his treatment, barring a few times when he was hospitalized and eating was a challenge.

There were moments when he felt so weak that he wasn't able to even walk. Those were tough times, according to the family, when Raahil felt like he wouldn't be active ever again and would break down. But for the most part, he kept his spirits up and remained positive with support from family, friends and his care team.

"When I think about Raahil, all the enthusiasm he brought, his positive attitude, and still wanting to run 13.1 miles in a relay race, it's a reminder to all of us about what our patients go through," said Dr. Daniel Choi, Raahil's oncologist. "They're not going to let something small like cancer get in the way of doing the most important thing to them, which is being a kid and growing up. So I want to personally thank Raahil, as do all the providers who worked with you, for reminding us to look at life like a kid does. To prioritize what is important and to not let little things in life get in your way."

Before Raahil rang the bell, his mother, Manisha, thanked Advocate and the Bulls for this opportunity and for the care they provided throughout.

"I really want to thank Advocate," said Raahil's mother, Manisha. "The team that you have here. The doctors and the nurses, we were totally blessed to have this team and we couldn't be more thankful. From the day Dr. Choi walked into hospital room he said two things. The first was, 'you did nothing wrong', and the second was, 'there is a cure.' That gave us so much hope and I can't say enough about him and all the doctors and nurses here who helped care for Raahil. We are truly blessed."

A big Bulls fan with a basketball-themed bedroom, Raahil tries to never miss a game, either on TV or at the United Center. His father, Sanjiv, also is a huge Bulls fan and has wide collection of signed basketballs, jerseys and never-ending stories of Michael Jordan era. He was a season-ticket holder in the 90's during the Bulls run of six NBA championships.

"I don't know who is more excited for the trip, me or Raahil," Sanjiv joked with a smile while hugging Raahil. "We just can't thank Advocate and the Bulls enough for making this happen."

Raahil loves to stay active, especially with basketball. Even while going through his treatments, he would still play outside when he could or at the YMCA with his friends. He is always coordinating with his friends to go to the park and you'll always find him carrying his basketball.

As any 13-year-old would be, Raahil was overcome with emotions throughout the surprise and even shed a tear as he tried to stay composed and hold back his excitement.

"I just want to say thank you so much to everybody, especially all my doctors and nurses, Advocate and the Bulls organization and especially Mr. Kukoc for being here. This is unbelievable!"

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