Sarah and Tim still remember staring at the screen and searching for words. The CT scan of their 3-year-old son, Logan, revealed a glaring mass in his right lung.
It had been an exhausting three months leading up to this point. Logan had developed a mysterious and chronic stomach ache. “We felt like we had no answers,” Sarah said.
After blood work showed an elevated white blood cell count, Logan was referred to Children’s Hospital Colorado for an X-ray followed by a CT scan that revealed a large tumor. The doctors scheduled a biopsy immediately.
Suddenly Logan’s low energy, constant need to be held, and complaints of stomach pain all made sense. He was diagnosed with a very rare cancerous tumor called Pleuropulmonary Blastoma (PPB). At the time, only 350 children in the U.S. had been diagnosed with this form of cancer, and just 30 percent survived.
A place of empowerment
Shortly after being diagnosed, Logan began chemotherapy at Children’s Colorado. At the time, he weighed only 28 pounds and was very fragile. The prospect of chemotherapy was scary for both Logan and his parents, but the nurses and Child Life specialists helped them feel comfortable. He hated the needles and not knowing what to expect, but the nurses played with Logan and talked through his fears. His care team also helped him make a sign for his door that read: “Stop, before you touch me, you have to tell me what you are going to do.” Child Life specialists even used a doll with an IV port (just like Logan’s) to demonstrate what to expect. Soon Logan went from feeling helpless and scared to empowered and even happy.
'We felt sick'
After several months of weekly chemo, Logan had surgery to remove the tumor. The surgery was scheduled to take three hours but ended up taking more than six. Logan required several blood transfusions, and the surgeon had to remove more of his right lung than originally anticipated, as well as two of his ribs, which had unexpectedly been affected by cancer cells.
“It was devastating,” Sarah said. “Hour after hour ticked by, while we prayed and cried. The surgeon was wonderful. He came out every so often to give us updates. It was just so hard to hear that Logan had lost two of his ribs. We felt sick. We didn’t know what this would mean for Logan’s future.”
Following surgery, Logan continued chemotherapy at Children’s Colorado. Mondays and Tuesdays were chemo days, Wednesdays and Thursdays were recovery days, Fridays were a little better and on Saturdays Logan played soccer. He never missed a game during all of his treatment.
Every week when he came in for treatment, his nurses would ask what he’d been up to over the weekend. This simple question maintained a sense of normalcy for the family. They began to celebrate the small moments in Logan’s life, like dancing to 80s rock or playing outside with his brothers. The family started taking pictures of everything to share with Logan’s nurses.
After every treatment, he received a “Bead of Courage” – a tangible reminder of his treatment progress – and got to pick out a toy from a Treasure Chest. Logan and one of his nurses sat on the floor carefully examining every toy to pick the very best one.
“The little things they did were just magic to our family,” Sarah said.
In December, 2016, Logan reached the five-year cancer-free mark. While walking out of the hospital after his last checkup, Logan said, “Mom, I am going to miss coming here.” Sarah, through tears, replied, “Me, too, buddy.”
Hope for answers
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, research and innovation are acts of hope. Here, children receive advanced care and techniques before they are available anywhere else. Here, hope isn’t just a feeling; it also spurs action.
Unfortunately, stories of success like Logan’s can be rare. While doctors have made great strides in understanding pediatric cancer, much remains unknown. Physicians are recognizing there is a large genetic component to many kinds of cancer, and researchers have even identified a specific genetic mutation that causes Logan’s particular type of cancer.
“We are so lucky that we still have Logan with us,” Sarah says. “I hope philanthropy can support studies that shed light on rare forms of cancer to give more kids a better chance at survival.”
Today, Logan is a thriving 11-year-old. Although he is missing much of his right lung and two ribs, he has full range of motion and plays many sports, including baseball, basketball, track and flag football. He has been nicknamed “Beast” – a well-earned title for a young boy with a lion’s heart who has shown courage in all areas of life.