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No fear, just faith for family of child diagnosed with cancer

All young Seanan Whitaker knew was something bad was going on in his stomach. He had no idea he was battling for his life.

His parents, Sean and Lataya Whitaker of Manassas, noticed their son’s stomach swelling and immediately took him to the doctor.

Just three days later his parents heard the words no parent wants to hear, “cancer.” 

At the age of 2 1/2, Whitaker was diagnosed with stage three Hepatoblastoma, the most common liver cancer found in children. 

However, according to Whitaker’s grandmother, Songa McKenzie, the diagnosis only made the family stronger.

“It made us all strong in faith. We believed the Lord had already healed him, and he’d come through,” said McKenzie.

Diagnosed in Oct. 2012, Whitaker began chemotherapy immediately. McKenzie made sure
she was there for her grandson’s first chemo treatment.

“He sang ‘My God is Awesome’ on his first night of chemo, and it has been his favorite song. He was treated in INOVA in Fairfax,” said McKenzie.

Her grandson, just like every other toddler, enjoys watching movies, riding his bike and Spiderman. 

Even though he was battling one of his toughest battles, McKenzie said, one would have never known it. 

“He carried on just like Seanan, and he only got nauseous a time or two. His diagnosis affected the grown ups mostly because they knew what was really going on. He only knew something was in his stomach,” she added.

After first trying chemo to shrink the tumors in Whitaker’s stomach, the doctors tried other alternatives.

According to McKenzie, the doctors told Whitaker’s parents they would try surgery but found out it would cause too many complications, so the only chance was a liver transplant. 

“They told them this at 12 on a Tuesday…they called back at 6 on the same night and said they had a liver,” said McKenzie.

“It was a pure act of God,” she added.

He received his transplant at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. and was in the hospital for just three days. Grandmother McKenzie was right by his side, once again.

Throughout the entire seven-month battle, Whitaker maintained his motto, “no fear, just faith,” and two weeks ago the doctors delivered the good news to his family that with a successful transplant and check up, he was now cancer free.

“When I got the call I couldn’t talk…I told her I’d have to call her back. I just had tears of joy,” said McKenzie.

The happy grandmother wishes to bring awareness to the uncommon liver cancer found in infants. 

“Parents need to be aware if it is detected early, it can be treated,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie said the Halifax County community came together May 11 to show love and support for little Whitaker at a car show and softball benefit raising funds for his medical expenses.

“People of all walks of life have responded, through Facebook and everything. The benefit had a good turnout, and I just want to thank everyone for all their love and support,” McKenzie concluded.

Whitaker has a 7-year-old sister, Seaniya. 


McKenzie resides in Halifax with her husband, Corinthian, and works as the cafeteria manager at Halifax County High School. Whitaker’s grandfather, Jerry Lee, resides in Washington, D.C.