Return of the Killer Tumors
Kevin's cancer has returned.
When I wrote the last entry in this blog on August 5th of 2005, it was with the intention of never having to open it again. I was confident that this chapter in our lives was closed forever. But life has a way of throwing curve balls, and we were just hit with another.
Here is the story so far in January 2007.
Many of you know that Kevin had battled Hodgkin's cancer 2 years ago. He had many pulmonary complications after his treatments were completed (Reactive Airway Disease and mild Asthma as a direct result of lung scarring from the radiation and chemo), but seemed to be doing well these past few months. He had a 6 month post cancer follow-up at Minneapolis Children's Hospital on Dec. 29th. The CT scan was abnormal, so he needed to have a PET scan on the 3rd. This showed numerous "hot spots" indicative of increased cell growth--3 spots in the pleural sacs surrounding his lungs, one in the mediastinal space on the left side next to his heart, one in his abdomen, one in a rib near his left shoulder, and one in his left hip. The general consensus was that the Hodgkin's had returned. We were told that Hodgkin's does have a high reoccurrence rate, and usually it happens within the first 2 years--he was first diagnosed on Feb 9th, 2005. We were also told that if it reoccurs, it usually responds to treatment the 2nd time around, but that the treatment is "very harsh".
Kevin was admitted to Mpls Children's Hospital on the 9th for a surgical biopsy of the pleural sac surrounding his left lung. The hope was to avoid the need for a chest tube placement since they are very uncomfortable. When the surgeon met with us after the surgery and told us he didn't have to place the chest tube, we thought things were going our way! But by that evening, Kevin was becoming very uncomfortable. But the next morning, his hemoglobin was dropping considerably and he was in a lot of pain. It was evident that the left pleural sac was filling with blood and surgery to place a chest tube was eminent. By this time, Kevin had also had many other tests, of which the preliminary results were in. The bone marrow was negative. The bone scan didn't show any cancer in the site in the rib and hip, so it is questionable for those areas, but it was at a stage IV. Dr. Bendel was communicating with specialists from around the country who worked with recurring Hodgkin's and were in tune with the latest studies about treatment. They came up with a game plan. Since Kevin had already received all of the radiation his body can have during the first treatment course, it was ruled out as a line of defense this time around. He would need 4-6 rounds of chemo--different drugs then the first time around, then a bone marrow transplant. Since he will need a Hickman Central Line placed to harvest his stem cells and for the transplant, they decided to surgically place the line when they go in to insert the chest tube. This was more risky since he would need more anesthesia and his left lung was collapsed, but they felt it was better to do it all at once then to sedate him twice. When they placed the chest tube during surgery, they immediately drained 1200 ml of fluid from his pleural space surrounding the lung, and in recovery they drained another 130 ml of fluid--can you imagine how much pressure Kevin was feeling on his left lung--no wonder he was in so much pain and had difficulty breathing. Because of the amount of on-going drainage, they weren't able to remove the chest tube until Monday, after which Kevin was finally able to come home--after 7 long days.
Because of the course of treatment needed this time around, Kevin will not be able to attend St. John's University for this next semester, but the goal is for him to be able to go back next fall. Kevin has absolutely loved his whole SJU experience so far--he is a freshman and has one semester under his belt. He had all Honors courses and was doing very well academically. He was also on the St. John's varsity dive team and loved living on 4th Tommy Hall. He is a very dedicated and positive person and is handling this new development quite well so far; however, he is devastated that he won't be able to go back to SJU for the new semester starting the l5th. He already had to put life on hold during his junior year in high school, and he shouldn't have to be doing it again. But if anyone can pull through this a 2nd time, it is him. He is mature beyond his years, and will come through this on top!