Imagine a healthy, vibrant, and social, 15-month-old that loved to roll around with his dog and go on play dates with his mom and friends. Outside of a few normal colds and a light episode of RSV, Samuel had experienced no major health issues since birth.
In early October, he had become congested with what we thought was his typical allergy symptoms. However, the symptoms continued to progress, and his congestion continued to worsen. On Monday morning, October 11th, 2010 we went about our normal morning routine as my husband, Robert, prepared for a work trip to Lubbock, TX for a few days. Samuel was having some slight breathing difficulties that I hoped would improve. However, by early afternoon, after a call to the pediatrician, I decided to carry him in for a quick check-up. As Dr. Newton finished his check-up, he told me he had a common cold virus and with further breathing treatments it should improve. He continued with “I think it is nothing, but I would like for you to go over to Children’s this afternoon to have an x-ray of his abdomen. He mentioned that it could be just constipation which did ease my mind some. As a new Mom, I thought it was slightly strange that he wanted it done today, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I called Robert to let him know, but I told him not to worry as it was just routine.
Samuel and I walked into the ER, told them who we were, and we were met with “Yes Dr. Newton’s office called”. We found ourselves in a room preparing for an X-ray and an ultrasound within just a few minutes. The nurse called Robert to tell him that he needed to head back to Frisco as soon as possible. This is when it started to sink in that this may be serious. Living 8 hours from both of our families, and with Robert still 6 hours from home, I sat there all alone with Samuel in the hospital room.
As Robert started home, he made a couple of calls to other couples in our Bible Fellowship Class at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Within 30 minutes I was no longer alone, but rather had a room full of people that brought food along with a few necessities and others that were tending to our dog back at our house. We were admitted to the hospital with plans to have a CT scan the next day. When they transferred us from the ER to our regular room the staff even joked that we must be having a party due to the large group of people escorting us to our room that night. Our friends never left my side till Robert was back with us after midnight. They would continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus as they walked with us through every aspect of our journey over the next few weeks and months.
The next day, Samuel had a CT scan which confirmed he had a mass in his right kidney and the word Cancer was said for the first time. Things sped up quickly and we were suddenly meeting with a surgeon, an oncologist, and transferring to the main Children’s Health hospital in downtown Dallas. He was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor which is a rare form of kidney cancer.
On Wednesday, October 13th, Samuel underwent surgery to remove his right kidney and have a port put in so that he could receive chemotherapy. While the surgery itself was routine, Samuel battled high blood pressure issues for the next 2-3 days. What was supposed to be a 3-4 day stay turned into 11 full days after an emergency surgery the following Monday due to an intussusception. This was another routine surgery, however, due to the continued lingering effects of his cold, we found ourselves back in ICU. In total we had spent 11 days in the hospital, went through two surgeries, a blood transfusion, and the first round of chemotherapy.
The next 20 weeks would involve visits to the clinic for blood draws and chemotherapy. Thankfully, side affects were minimum, though looking back on pictures we can now see just how sick he truly was. In March of 2011, Samuel had his last chemo session and on May 13th, he finally had his port removed and was declared CANCER FREE. To this day, 13 is his favorite and we say “lucky” number. The check-ups consisting of X-rays, ultrasounds, and an occasional CAT scan would continue for the next year, becoming less frequent each time. He still has a yearly check-up at the clinic just to ensure things are going well but also to help educate him on his condition. Today Samuel is just like every other 12-year-old, apart from having one large scar across his stomach and a few smaller ones. He loves playing baseball and can do just about anything other kids his age can do except for playing a few contact sports.
People ask us all the time how we made it through. How did we survive seeing our only child, at that time, face cancer? For us the answer is easy, our faith in God, and being constantly surrounded by our friends. They not only met our immediate needs but were truly walking daily alongside us. The visits to the hospital, many meals, the encouraging words, praying for and over us, and just the times that they would sit quietly with us for hours. They truly became an extension of our family.