For 7-year-old boy, grandfather’s life is the best birthday gift

Instead of presents, Bryson Mittman asked for donations to support UNC Lineberger's multiple myeloma research program and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

For 7-year-old boy, grandfather’s life is the best birthday gift click to enlarge Bryson Mittman, right, sits with his grandfather, Gilbert Casterlow, Jr., PhD. For the past two years, Bryson decided that instead of birthday presents, he wanted people to donate to UNC Lineberger to help people like his grandfather.

For the past two years, as his birthday drew near, Bryson Mittman was thinking of others, particularly his grandfather, Gilbert Casterlow, Jr., PhD, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2004 and is currently a patient at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Bryson decided that instead of birthday presents, he wanted his friends and family members to donate to cancer research to help people like his grandfather, a former math professor and administrator at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

“We are so proud of Bryson’s decision to share his blessings with others,” said Bonita Mittman, Bryson’s mom. “He has a true passion for giving and helping others.”

UNC Lineberger’s team has handled Casterlow’s care for more than 10 years, where he’s received multiple therapies, including a double stem cell transplant in 2005 as part of a clinical trial. Bryson wanted to thank everyone at UNC Lineberger for his grandfather’s care and donated his birthday haul to the cancer center and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Sascha Tuchman, MD, MHS, director of UNC Lineberger’s Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis Program and Casterlow’s oncologist. “Dr. Casterlow has been a patient at UNC for years. He’s doing great on therapy and has participated in research studies, and he and his wife are some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

“It’s not surprising that they have such a community-minded grandson, who at such a young age wants to pay it forward by trying to help fund the type of research that has helped his granddad in the past,” Tuchman said. “The whole family is basically working together to help us to improve treatments for not only Dr. Casterlow’s myeloma, but everyone with this condition.”

This April, the rising second-grader continued paying it forward, convincing more family members and friends to make individual donations to UNC Lineberger and earmarking a portion of his birthday money for donation, too.

Casterlow’s care is never far from Bryson’s mind, though, birthday or not. Bonita Mittman said her son often asks about his grandfather, interested in Casterlow’s health updates and asking what he can do to help out. In fact, Bryson’s got an eye on the future, thinking ahead to his next birthday and what he can do for his grandfather.

“(Bryson’s) already talking about plans to raise even more money for his eighth birthday next year,” Bonita Mittman said.