St Jude Patient of the Month
In February 2012, 7-year-old Andrew and his family were headed out of town for a day of fun when he began clutching his right leg in pain. The pain went away as suddenly as it had started, but this was not its first time to strike. The strange pain and cramping had been affecting Andrew’s leg, off and on, for several months.
Initially, Andrew’s parents thought it was growing pains. Then they thought he must have a joint problem or a broken bone in his leg, but nothing showed up in an X-ray or an MRI. Sometimes, Andrew limped so badly he could barely walk.
Finally, in April, an MRI of Andrew’s lower torso revealed that the source of his pain wasn’t in his leg at all — a tumor the size of an orange was growing in his pelvic area, next to his spine.
Andrew suffered from Ewing sarcoma, a type of cancer that can affect bone or soft tissue. His parents were devastated. “No one ever thinks their child has cancer,” says his mom.
Andrew was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by ambulance the very next day. St. Jude has the world’s best survival rates for the most aggressive childhood cancers. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened 50 years ago.
Andrew’s tumor is inoperable due to its location. At St. Jude, Andrew received chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a bone marrow transplant to drive the cancer from his body. After chemotherapy, the tumor had shrunk enough that Andrew was able to move around without the aid of a walker.
“He couldn’t really walk when he got to St. Jude,” remembers his mom, “but now he can.”
While fighting for Andrew’s life, St. Jude was also protecting his quality of life. “We love St. Jude,” says his mom. “Andrew loves it here. It’s our home away from home. There are lots of things to do for the children. The staff is wonderful. Andrew likes his doctors. His favorite doctor is so friendly and upbeat, so positive.”
Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
“It meant so much when we learned that we’d never get a bill,” Andrew’s mother remembers. “We already had debt — from our house, from other medical bills. It was a gift not only from Danny Thomas but also from God.”
Now a creative and imaginative 8-year-old, Andrew is happy to be active again. He has finished treatment and now returns to St. Jude every few months for checkups. Back home, he likes to go canoeing and floating on the river.
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