“That one word, six letters, two syllables,” recalls Adrienne Young. “That word, cancer – it changed my life forever.”
Until the day she heard that word, Adrienne lived a happy, yet hectic life. In the mornings, she got her daughter ready for school and took her son to stay with family while she worked. She enjoyed playing with her kids in the evenings and then got up to do it all over again the next day – until the day came that two-year-old Amari stopped eating.
“At the time, I thought my daughter was bringing home germs from school because Amari had just been to the pediatrician in September, and the doctor said it was just an upper respiratory infection.”
But when Adrienne picked Amari up on November 26, 2014 and listened to her family describe how he had been acting that day, she immediately called the pediatrician’s office. Because it was the day before Thanksgiving, the doctor’s office had closed early so she decided to take him to the emergency room. A preliminary X-ray indicated pneumonia, and the doctor decided to transfer Amari to another hospital better suited to care for him.
The next day Adrienne heard that word – cancer.
Amari was diagnosed with Pleuropulmonary Blastoma or PPB. PPB is a rare type of childhood cancer which begins in the chest, usually in the lung tissue. Because its symptoms are so similar to pneumonia, PPB often goes undiagnosed until it progresses, as it had in Amari. X-rays showed that the tumor inside his little body was approximately the size of a football.
“I’ve read about cancer and have had family members fight it,” Adrienne said. “But I never thought I would go through it with my own child. Before he was born I prayed to God he would be a cute, healthy baby with a lot of hair. How did we go from being told pneumonia to cancer?”
The next two things the doctor told her scared Adrienne even more. He said that although he had treated many children with cancer, he had never seen this particular type. Further, the type of cancer which had invaded Amari’s chest was so rare that he could not find any statistics on survival rates.
Instead of going to Chuck E Cheese for his third birthday party as planned, Amari spent the day in the hospital while the doctors decided on a treatment plan. One night, Amari’s breathing became increasingly labored because of the growing tumor inside him. Finally, Amari was rushed into surgery, where the surgeon was able to remove the entire tumor. Once he recovered from surgery, Amari began the first of twelve rounds of chemotherapy.
In the following months, Amari missed family gatherings and holidays, and he was forced to spend long periods of time away from his sister during hospital stays. Because she wouldn’t leave his side, Adrienne had to quit her job.
“Watching his hair fall out, not being able to go in the operating room with him, and seeing so many chemo drugs going into his body was never easy,” remembers Adrienne. “But the greatest day finally came on July 29, 2015. It was his last chemo day!”
Amari weathered the storm and is doing great now. He currently attends Pre-K and is what his mother likes to call “a true boy” – energetic and always ready with a smile. He still must get periodic scans, but, thus far, he has shown no evidence of side effects from the treatment. In fact, he has grown to be proud of the scars which mark that period of his life, especially the one that runs down the middle of his chest from the surgery to remove the tumor. He calls that his beauty mark.
CURE has been with Amari and his family since the beginning, and we are thrilled to watch him become “a true boy.” We continue to work for the day when all children put cancer behind them and have the chance to reach their full potential.