Like his brother Samuel, Lucas was diagnosed with cancer a few days before his birthday. The differences are that Samuel was turning 3 and diagnosed with ALL while Lucas was turning 14 and diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that had expanded into his bone marrow and a few of his organs.
Lucas’ diagnosis came when we were finally starting to see the light at the end of the treatment tunnel for Samuel. With just 6 months left of chemotherapy and two more lumbar punctures we were eagerly planning all the activities we had given up for three years. Little did we know that we were going to embark upon another journey with pediatric cancer.
In hindsight, Lucas’ symptoms appear obvious having experienced similar symptoms with Samuel. I wonder how we could go so long not realizing we were dancing with cancer again. Lucas had been an active and always thin young man. He was up at the crack of dawn fishing and hunting. He was on the middle school wrestling team. It was the winter wrestling experience that I can look back at and recognize the first signs of change. Lucas usually had the stamina and strength to pin his opponent or at least stay in it for all the rounds. This particular season, he was hanging in the first round and easily defeated in the second round. I was not alarmed in the moment. As the school year went on and spring sprang, Lucas, who was up all the time, began taking naps. He also had frequent tummy aches. Again, I had not strung these symptoms together. By the end of the year, naps became hours long and multiple times per day. The lymph nodes on his neck had become visibly swollen and the low-grade fevers began. That was the tipping point. I took him to the same pediatrician that we took Samuel to. It was a Friday afternoon. He immediately ordered labs and shared that he was on call that evening and would contact me IF there was a concern. My phone rang a few hours later. These labs were much different than Samuel’s as were his instructions, so I still did not digest what was happening. He shared with me that his infection marker and white blood count were high. Instead of sending us straight to Lurie’s, he told me to call and make an appointment with infectious diseases with them.
A week went by until our appointment and I was literally watching Lucas fade away. I could not wait for answers. I brought copies of his labs and notes to Samuel’s appointment that week for his oncology team to review. Of course, they could not tell me much but assured me that we would get through the weekend and they would reach out to the infectious disease department with Samuel’s history.
When we arrived on Monday, Samuel’s care team was with the infectious disease team awaiting our arrival. To me, that was confirmation of cancer. I just did not understand which type or why labs were so different from Samuel’s. After a fully body examination, Lucas was admitted and had several labs, xrays, scans, and a biopsy of his lymph nodes conducted.