In the summer of 2020, Paul and his family were enjoying a mountain vacation. Although he had been experiencing intermittent leg pain, he never let it slow him down, and he didn’t complain. So when an x-ray revealed a tumor in his right femur, his parents were shocked.
“We thought Paul had a muscle injury, or possibly a bone infection,” Paul’s mother, Charlotte Marie, said. “We weren’t prepared to hear the words cancer or Ewing sarcoma.”
More bad news came as further testing revealed more than 100 tumors in Paul’s lungs and a lesion on his spine and left femur. After nine rounds of chemotherapy, his lungs were clear, and the tumors on his left femur and spine were gone. The next step in his treatment was surgery to remove half of his right femur and replace it with a telescoping rod that will expand as Paul grows. Following the surgery, Paul endured more chemo and radiation until he was declared cancer-free in June 2021.
“Paul put his head down and handled treatment very well,” shared his father, Jonathan. “We had a goal of getting to the finish line of treatment, and we focused 100% of our energy on that day. What we weren’t prepared for was the day after.”
After a year of being entirely consumed by Paul’s health, Jonathan and Charlotte Marie began to take stock of the unseen toll of his treatment. They describe Paul as an “old soul” who was slightly stoic before cancer. But his experience increased that stoicism. He has also become very protective of his family and doesn’t want them to feel sad. So he tries to manage his own emotions so no one worries about him.
“In many ways, his innocence was stolen from him,” Jonathan said. “Instead of going to kindergarten, he was getting a port placed in his chest and beginning chemo. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with, much less a six-year-old.”
Paul’s parents turned to CURE for help, and Paul now works with a therapist to help unlock his feelings about his cancer experience and to learn how to express his emotions. It seems to be helping him greatly. But Paul wasn’t the only one who needed support.
“We started seeing a counselor through CURE’s Counseling Program,” said Jonathan. “Everything about the year in treatment hit us, and we weren’t prepared to process it all. It has been very helpful to carve out an hour to talk to someone who can help us work through these things. We also get to hear each other’s side of the trauma.”
“I feel like we woke up after treatment ended and had to deal with a great many issues we had buried while we focused on getting Paul better,” added Charlotte Marie. “I’m glad we weren’t alone and had a third party help us resolve these things. It’s been a truly invaluable resource. Jonathan and I are in a better place because of the counseling we’ve done.”
After working through a couple of very traumatic years, the future is looking much brighter for Paul’s family. Jonathan and Charlotte Marie would encourage others to seek counseling when needed as everyone can benefit from help processing such a terrifying and stressful experience.
If your family has been impacted by a childhood cancer diagnosis, we would love to be a counseling resource for you. Through our Counseling Program, we make sessions available for patients, parents, and siblings. Click the button below to learn more.