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Maximilian ("Max") M.
4 months old at diagnosis
Arizona USA
Phoenix Children's Hospital

Max was born with a medium-sized Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD - a "hole in the heart"), which resulted in congestive heart failure, so he was being watched very closely by both his pediatrician and his cardiologist. 

At his 4-month well baby visit, his pediatrician was palpitating his abdomen and felt what we all thought was an enlarged liver (very common with VSDs).  After consulting with Max's cardiologist, they decided we should go in for an ultrasound, just in case. 

Later that afternoon, the pediatrician came to our house in person to tell us it was actually some sort of mass on his adrenal gland and that we needed to get Max admitted to the hospital as quickly as possible.  A few days later we had our diagnosis - Stage III Neuroblastoma - and our journey as a cancer family began. 

Max has since undergone 4 rounds of chemo and 3 surgeries, as well as multiple blood transfusions and trips to the ER.  His tumor has shrunk an amazing 90%, and we are currently out of treatment and just watching it, hoping it will continue to shrink and die on its own. 

Max still has monthly visits to the HEM-ONC clinic (down from 2 to 3 visits a week during treatment) for blood and urine tests, and scans (which have to be done under general anesthesia) every three months to check on tumor size and activity. 

We discovered once Max was off chemo that he's got a lot of food allergies (apparently the chemo suppresses the immune response associated with allergic reactions, so he didn't show symptoms until the chemo drugs cleared from his system).  Consequently, a lot of our life revolves around trying to find food he can/will eat.  Dehydrated apples seem to be a big hit, since he's not allergic to them and he can eat them himself.

Max also loves playing with his two big brothers and watching Moose A. Moose on Nick Jr.  He's cruising all over the place, and we expect he'll be walking by his first birthday.  He's an incredibly happy baby, even with all he's been through.  The nurses at the clinic fight over who gets to take care of him because he never complains, even when they're poking him with needles, and he always has a ready smile. 

He is a real inspiration to us, and a blessing, always.