In 2004 when Sam was 6 years old, he began having episodes of severe pain in his right side, accompanied by vomiting that would last for 2-3 days. After 2 years of doctor visits and tests, his parents were told that Sam had cyclic vomiting syndrome and would probably outgrow it during his teens. During the summer of 2006, Sam began complaining of back pain. He was a pitcher on his little league baseball team and his parents thought perhaps he had pulled something in his back. In late July of that year, Sam developed a cough and low grade fever. His doctor listened to his lungs and thought he had some kind of infection, so Sam was put on antibiotics for one week. By the end of the next week, the fever and cough were still persistent and Sam was having trouble getting a deep breath. A chest CT was ordered and a large mass was found to be compressing Sam’s right lung to half its normal capacity. Within a few hours Sam was admitted to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma. He was just 10 years old at diagnosis.
Since that time, Sam has endured chemo, surgeries, radiation, infections, and numerous blood and platelet transfusions. He missed an entire year of school, but was able to rejoin his class in the fall of 2007. The standard protocol failed to clear Sam of his disease but maintenance therapy kept the disease in check until October 2008 when scans revealed the appearance of two new spots. Once again the treatment plan was changed and Sam was placed on a new type of therapy using inhibitors to fight Neuroblastoma by cutting off the blood supply to the tumors. This type of therapy is much less harsh than standard chemotherapy, and has allowed Sam to enjoy an excellent quality of life.
We have endured setbacks along the way, but we have never been without hope. There are now new drugs to fight Neuroblastoma that were not available when Sam was originally diagnosed. Our philosophy has been to try and choose a treatment that would work for a year, maybe two. By the time that drug or drug combination stops being effective, there is always something new to try. So far this has been a good plan.
Sam loves sports and is an avid Chicago Cubs fan. He has a great attitude and has said from the beginning that he is going to be a cancer survivor. We are extremely grateful for St. Jude and Sam’s team of doctors who include us and Sam in every decision that is made regarding his treatment. We truly feel we are part of the team, and I just can’t help but feel that eventually we are going to find a treatment that will give us a winning home run!