By Athena Friday-Black
Alex was born Sunday, June 13, 2004 at 5:40 in the P.M. He was induced a little early so he could see his daddy before he left for Iraq on June 29, 2004. He was a happy baby and from all outward appearances a healthy one too.
On October 30th 2004 the world we knew came to a screeching halt...I had just put Alex to bed and heard him gasping for air. After rushing to the Emergency Room at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital and several X-rays. The doctors saw a large mass on his right lung not knowing if it was pneumonia and his age they decided to send him to Texas Children’s Hospital.
This was our first and hopefully only ambulance ride. We stayed at the hospital doing numerous tests discovering that Alex had a condition call Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation (CCAM) which would require surgery.
In the meantime was discovered that he had tested positive for RSV which prolonged the surgery to remove the CCAM mass on his right lung. We were discharged from the hospital November 11, 2004 under strict orders to stay healthy to return on November 16, 2004 for surgery.
The surgery was performed by Dr. E. Dean McKenzie who discovered that the intrathoracic mass growing around his right lung and pressing on his main bronchus entangling his brachial plex. Dr Jed Nuchteurn was called in for consultation and confirmed the findings of possible Neuroblastoma, and took a biopsy of the mass. After a biopsy of the tumor, a bone marrow aspiration, countless scans, MRI and tests it was confirmed. Hitting us upside the head with a brick would have felt better than that news. Shocked, fearful, frustrated, powerless, these were just some of the feelings we felt and still do.
Alex was diagnosed with 2B Surgical Stage, NMYC Amplified, Stroma Rich No Nodular Pattern, Poorly Differentiated, Low-Risk Neuroblastoma (a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system) on 11/17/04 at 5 months old.
Alex was put on Texas Children’s POC Protocol A3961 two rounds of chemotherapy and then finally a tumor resection and a central line removal.
Today Alex shows no evidence of disease and has been this way since January 2005 when the tumor was rescected. Alex is as normal as any other kid and enjoys life to the fullest. Although he no longer shows evidence of the disease, he will be followed for the rest of his life.....so his journey continues. Thankfully, he was too little to remember all he went through.
However, many people have been touched by his story and his life. I know he has taught our family many lessons of faith, life, love and happiness.
Cancer is not infectious as a disease, but it does create a fear that permeates the daily lives of all those near and dear. We become very aware of our frailties, of our time on earth, of our relationships with each other, and our responsibilities to these relationships.