For many kids with cancer, their lives are full of hospital visits, tests and needle pokes — even after treatment ends. Our social media specialist, Alison Sutton, joined Honored Kid Chase L. and his parents at his latest checkup. She recounts their day below.
At 8 years old, you’re supposed to be learning multiplication, mastering your states and capitals, and locking down your best friend.
For Chase, he was learning what being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma meant.
In April 2013, Chase lost his appetite and began complaining of stomach pain. After being misdiagnosed with constipation, Chase’s parents, Kristy Sanchez and Terry Leikam, took him to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, Colorado.
On October 4, 2013, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
After a year of intense treatment with hair loss, extreme weight gain, mild memory loss and fatigue, Chase had clear scans!
He currently has scans every four months to make sure his cancer is still in remission. Last month, I got to join him for his scans.
With a 7 a.m. call time, I met Chase and his parents for the first time in the lobby of the hospital.
While we waited to be taken back for his CT scan, Chase began to tell me a little about himself, which included how much he hated shots — a huge part of scan day.
I also learned that he wants to be an inventor, scientist, baseball player and babysitter.
After some time in the lobby, it was finally time to start the day.
We were taken down a long hallway to a room full of machines. It was all normal to Chase, but I started to feel very intimidated by the car-sized machine in the center of the room.
He hopped onto the table, laid down and prepped himself for his first needle encounter of the day.
“We both get angry about having him poked,” Kristy said to me as she held his hand.
The nurse cleaned his arm and Chase started his ritual of counting down from 10. In went the needle.
“You didn’t even flinch!”
“I know I didn’t. That’s just how good I am!” Chase said to the nurse.
After drawing some blood, it was time for the CT scan. Only one person could be in the room with Chase, so I walked out to the waiting room with Chase’s dad, Terry.
I asked him what it’s been like for the family since Chase was diagnosed.
“We’ve had to stay positive,” he said. “If not for ourselves, for him.”
This positivity is something that radiates from Chase, even when he knows his day is full of needle pokes.
Chase and Kristy met up with us after the scan. We stopped by the cafeteria to grab some breakfast before getting more blood drawn.
Nothing like a brownie and chocolate milk to kick off the morning!
While waiting for the next doctor, I asked Chase what he’s excited to start doing again this year.
“I’ll be starting baseball, which I haven’t done since I was diagnosed!”
Then it was time to check out the hot chocolate machine because that brownie and milk didn’t totally do it for him.
We were called in to a small room and Chase was a trooper for round two of needles.
“How does it feel?” the nurse asked.
“I don’t feel anything! Gotta love it!”
After filling a few vials, we walked back to the main hospital to get the scan results from his doctor.
Important part of the day — picking out the perfect sticker.
The waiting room was pretty crowded at that point and we were told there were no exam rooms open, so they brought us back to a room with a large comfy couch and chairs.
Immediately, Kristy began to worry about the reason we were brought into such a “comfortable room.”
“Why would they bring us in here? What are they going to tell us?”
The idea of hearing “his cancer came back” started flooding my mind. There was a point when I thought, Should I even be here for this?
As we waited, I couldn’t help but worry for this family I’d known for only six hours.
Then Dr. Jennifer Clark walked in, results in hand.
She said, “You’ve got clear scans, buddy!”
Between the sigh of relief from Terry and the loud “YES!” from Chase, it’s safe to say we were all excited for this news.
Dr. Clark explained that there really were no open rooms and she didn’t want him to have to wait to hear the good news.
As Chase and Dr. Clark posed for the famed clear scans photo, Kristy told me, “Dr. Clark saved his life. She’ll always be a friend.”
After hours of hospital adventures, it was time for us all to go home and for Chase to tell his big brother the good news.
But this isn’t the end for Chase. In four months, he will go through this entire process again. He’ll do this twice a year until 2018, as long as there’s no relapse.
As I said goodbye to my new friends, I asked Kristy how she was staying strong through this all.
“Chase was my strength, for sure,” she said.
I’m not sure when I’ll see Chase again, but I had an amazing, stressful, silly day with someone who taught me that when things don’t go your way, you should “freak out and then ask, ‘What’s plan B?’”
Wise words from an 11-year-old navigating his childhood cancer journey.
Let’s celebrate Chase’s good news! Donate to his St. Baldrick’s team.
Read more on the St. Baldrick’s blog: