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Christian Layne
1 year old at diagnosis
Morristown Memorial Hospital, NJ
Memorial Sloan Kettering, Manhattan, NY

On Tuesday, December 8th 2008 I brought my little boy to Newton Memorial Hospital due to a cough and cold. Christian had gotten a chest x-ray to make sure he didn’t have pneumonia. While we were waiting for the results, I had an awful feeling in my heart. I kept looking at my son, and knew something was wrong. He always had slight wheezing, that you could hear whenever he laughed or cried. I mentioned it to his pediatrician and she always said his lungs were clear and he was fine. I even brought him to the hospital for it once, and was told his oxygen level was good and the wheezing was normal for babies born through c-section. I felt it wasn’t normal but I believed the doctors. After waiting for an hour the doctor came back in and wanted to repeat the x-ray because Christian had moved and the radiologist might of saw something, but wasn’t sure. We went back into the room and had two doctors holding him down to get a good x-ray. I watched my baby screaming and crying, and it brought tears to my eyes. I carried him back to our room and sat in the chair with him. I tried watching TV to keep my mind off things. After 30 minutes, the doctor came back in. This time she was pretty sure the radiologist saw a mass in his chest, and they wanted to do a CT scan to see what it was exactly. Once again, we had to go back into the room and Christian started crying. This time, they had to strap his legs, arms, and head down in order to do the scan. He was screaming and crying for me. Once the test was over, I grabbed him and walked back to the waiting room. He clung to me; I had to rock him to make him stop crying and he eventually fell asleep in my arms. I was getting so anxious and paranoid. When the doctor walked in, I could tell by her face expression that something was really wrong. She sat on the bed and said she didn’t have good news for me. I lost my breath and didn’t say a word; I just sat there and listened. She went on about a large tumor in his chest, how she was so sorry, and she made plans for him to be transferred to a different hospital for further testing. She asked if I needed someone to talk with me, and I shook my head no. She patted my shoulder, said she was sorry, and walked out. A million thoughts were running through my mind. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. I looked at my sleeping baby in my arms and the tears came bursting out. I was crying and holding him so tight. I kept rubbing my hands through his hair and rubbing his cheeks. The doctor walked in and said the ambulance would be here soon and asked if I wanted to talk to someone again. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t get any words out, so I just shook my head no. After an hour, the ambulance came. We were transferred to Morristown Memorial Hospital which was 45 minutes away, where an oncologist came in and discussed what tests needed to be done, and showed me the CT scan that was done at the other hospital. She showed me how it was in his ribs, going into his spine, and on major blood vessels. She said the wheezing he was having, was caused by a collapsed lung as well as his airway and feeding tube being crushed from the tumor. All I kept thinking was how? How did I not know? Every day that week was difficult for my little boy. He had gotten bone marrow tests, CT scans, blood work, urine tests, an MRI of his spine, a biopsy of the tumor, and a port put into his chest. My son was diagnosed with stage 3 neuroblastoma. To this day, it’s still a shock that my child has cancer; it feels so unreal. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and hope it’s a dream and this will all go away and have my healthy little boy back.

Christian was in the hospital for 2 and a half weeks. He refused to eat, lost weight, and even developed the flu. I stayed with him day and night, refusing to leave his side. Since then, he has had 2 rounds of chemotherapy and has done well in treatment. He didn’t really have any side effects, besides not wanting to eat. His hair has been thinning and some fell out, but not enough to tell. He goes back to the hospital 2-3 times a week for blood work and if his counts are low he gets a blood transfusion. So far his blood has been good and he only needed one transfusion. Sometimes his white cells are low and then I have to give him neupogen shots in his legs every day, until the level goes back up. He recently had a CT scan and chest x-ray, it showed that the tumor hadn’t shrunk much; maybe 5%, so we got 2 more opinions at Sloan Kettering and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They both thought that surgery was the best option for him, and wanted it done before the end of January. They said scans can only show so much, and they won’t know how much of the tumor can be removed until they go in. I was a difficult operation because the tumor was in difficult areas. The doctors told us the surgery was very risky and could take up to 8 hours with the chance of still needing chemotherapy or radiation after. They also told us they would try to remove most of or the entire tumor if possible, unless it was hardening onto his ribs or growing into the vessels. As many parents going through this, I keep thinking why my baby? He was such a happy, friendly, and perfectly normal boy. Christian showed his strength as he fought hard with a smile on his face as happy as can be expected. I love my son with all my heart. I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to him. All I can do is pray and have faith in God that Christian will pull through this, survive, and beat cancer!

Christian had his surgery and the surgeons removed almost all of the mass that was in his chest, ribs, and spine. It has been over a year since this surgery and all his scans, blood work, and urine show no signs of the cancer growing back. Every day is a constant worry, as every little cough makes me wonder if he is okay. He is such a strong, happy, little boy that continues to grow and learn each day. I thank God he has made it this far and can only pray that he will be cancer free for the rest of his life. Christian is very playful and extremely smart for his age. He is already mastering his colors, numbers, shapes, and ABC’s. He loves sports, coloring, and reading books with his mother. He is constantly on the move and at this point you would never guess he ever had neuroblastoma.