A lot of people that follow my blog do it solely to stay up to date with Reese’s cancer journey, so I’ve decided to make it easier for y’all to get to those posts.
Right around the time my husband was graduating from medical school, we were celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Our youngest son, Reese, had been acting clingy and lethargic for about a month, and we didn’t know why. What we did know is that this behavior was completely out of character for him– those of you that have met him know that he is a fearless little dare-devil. He’s the kind of kid that makes a parent consider buying one of those backpack leashes, if that gives you a better perspective. One day I found him just laying on the floor in the living room. He wasn’t unconscious or anything like that– he was just so tired. That’s when I knew something was up. We figured it was probably iron-deficiency anemia. That’s what our pediatrician thought too when I brought him in and tested his blood. He is a toddler, so his diet isn’t exactly the best, so anemia made perfect sense. We took him along to his big brother’s third well child checkup the next week to see if his counts had improved after giving him iron supplements for a few days. They hadn’t. That’s when we knew something was wrong.
I just had a feeling it was cancer, but no one else seemed to think so. Having grown up with two childhood friends that had had cancer, I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was just too similar. But we got his blood drawn to run a multitude of tests. Nothing was adding up. They were thinking it had something to do with his liver and spleen, and the doctor couldn’t get a good feel on either through physical examination. So an abdominal ultrasound was ordered. That’s when they found it. A massive tumor extending from Reese’s adrenal glands up through his diaphragm and into his chest and lymph nodes. Probable neuroblastoma. We were devastated.
A biopsy was scheduled, and Reese underwent surgery and bone marrow aspiration. The results came back. Confirmed stage IV high risk neuroblastoma with bone marrow involvement and MYCN amplification. The five-year survival rate for Reese’s cancer is 40-50%. Sometimes it doesn’t respond to treatment. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case for our boy. The chemo has been doing a wonderful job killing the cancer cells, and our surgeon was able to remove most of the primary tumor due to how much the thing had shrunk.
The treatment schedule for Reese is intense.
- Four cycles of chemotherapy (with two weeks to recover between each cycle), a stem cell harvest, and possible blood transfusions
- Re-evaluate with scans to see if the tumor has responded to the chemo enough to be considered operable
- Tumor resection
- Fifth cycle of chemo
- Round one intensive chemo followed by stem cell transplant
- Round two intensive chemo followed by stem cell transplant
Once all of that is over with, Reese should be (God willing) cured of cancer. Then we will have to get scans every couple of months to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. If the cancer is going to come back, it will most likely do so within five years. So for the next five years, I’m going to be a basket case worrying about it. Cancer is harder to treat when it comes back, so the prognosis isn’t good. Hopefully that won’t be something we ever have to face.