“Our daughter, Zéa Joli, was rushed to the emergency room on June 6, when she was running a temperature of 106 degrees,” says Chris Graham. “She was admitted to the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, and a team of specialists began extensive tests to determine the cause for the fever. Three days later, the team decided to send her in for a full-body MRI. On June 9, we sat across from a team of oncologists and neurosurgeons, and they informed us that our 3-month-old baby girl has stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer.”
Graham, a longtime member of South Florida’s music community and an employee of Kill Your Idol, might best be remembered as the long-running patio DJ at the now-defunct Vagabond. But his days no longer revolve around promotions and music. In every clichéd sense of the phrase, the party is over. What he and his family are currently facing is a scenario no parent ever wants to face.
“We needed to make a decision to start intense chemotherapy right away or perform an emergency surgery. Zéa had two large tumors compressing her spine. We decided to move forward with the surgery. The neurosurgeon was not able to reach the entire tumor, but a large amount was removed that would have left her completely paralyzed.” After the surgery, Zéa was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she was sedated and placed on breathing support.
Neuroblastoma is a disease in which cancer cells form in the nerve tissue of the adrenal gland, neck, chest, or spinal cord. It's the third most common childhood cancer, after leukemia and cancer of the central nervous system. About 650 to 700 children per year are diagnosed with neuroblastoma in the United States, and the disease is an aggressive form of pediatric cancer. Around 70 percent of patients have advanced-stage disease at the time of diagnosis.
Zéa’s short life thus far has been marked by incessant testing and constant monitoring. “She’s also had a bilateral bone marrow biopsy, a biospy to her right lymph node to remove a quarter-sized tumor which was pressing on her airway, and a broviac central line placed in her chest so she could begin chemotherapy on June 11,” Graham says.
Further scans revealed that the cancer primarily on her spine was spreading into her right lymph node in the neck, brain, kidney, liver, lungs, and bone marrow. At 8 months of age, Zéa is in her eighth round of chemotherapy.
Photo by Heather Lane
The Sub-Culture crew has been no stranger to tragedy in the past (RIP, Alex Del Bueno and Atom Xmas), but it has always banded together to see it through. This Thursday at Kill Your Idol, 100 percent of all sales will go to Zéa’s fund to help cover mounting medical costs. Sub-Culture's other eight establishments, like Delray’s Dada and West Palm’s Howley’s, will also add 100 percent of their dessert sales to the fund, so if you’re not in Miami, bring your sweet tooth to those locations.
Live acts will populate the Kill Your Idol stage on Thursday, including the Hongs, the Grey 8s, Ordinary Boys (Smiths Acoustic Tribute), Viceroi, Ex-Norwegian, and Union. There will be DJ sets by A-Train, Brad Strickland, Cheap Miami, E.Sp, Joshy Josh, Mr. Jolt, Smeejay, as well as some surprise guests.
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Chris Graham remains upbeat and determined to help his daughter. The GoFundMe page in support of Zéa has already reached $27,000 of its $50,000 goal. Every little bit helps, and you can donate, share, and promote the page here.
“We have recently decided to transfer her care to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City beginning in December, at which point they will scan and rediagnosis Zéa and suggest a new protocol for treatment.”
Love for Baby Zéa with the Hongs, the Grey 8s, and more. 6 p.m. Thursday, November 12, at Kill Your Idol, 222 Española Way, Miami Beach; 305-672-1852; sub-culture.org. Admission is free but all bar sales will go toward the Zéa Joli Graham Fund.