Families

Three Years of Surprises: Aiden’s Story

by Jeena Gould, St. Baldrick's Foundation
July 1, 2016

Before Honored Kid Aiden was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October 2015, there seemed to be more questions than answers. But he completed his chemotherapy treatment and is loving life as a 4-year-old kid. Read on to hear about Aiden’s remarkable childhood cancer journey.

Aiden drinking milk out of straw glasses

Aiden slurping his milk from his silly straw glasses.

Aiden’s parents shouldn’t have been able to have kids.

After trying for so many years to have children — and losing some along the way — they knew something was wrong.

Aiden’s mom, Ashley, had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and was told she wouldn’t be able to have children. She learned that even if she did get pregnant, her body wouldn’t be able to support the pregnancy.

About six months after her remission, Ashley found out she was pregnant with Aiden. They called him their ‘little miracle child.’

BLOG: Babies and Cancer [Q&A] >

“We were shocked, excited, scared and nervous — all at the same time,” Ashley said. “But we were so grateful.”

Her pregnancy with Aiden was as wonderful as it was unexpected. When their baby boy finally arrived, Ashley and her husband cherished him, thankful for the gift of a son.

For about two and a half years, Aiden grew into an intelligent and healthy young child who spoke articulately and was full of joy.

Aiden smiling with his stuffed animal frog

Aiden smiles happily as a young toddler with his stuffed animal frog.

Then one morning, Ashley noticed Aiden’s face was drooping and he couldn’t speak.

“I thought, My God, my child is having a stroke,” Ashley said. She immediately took him to the hospital.

Aiden had a full check-up, including a CT scan. He was sent home with the diagnosis of a sinus infection — not an answer Ashley was satisfied with.

Learn how kids’ cancers are different from adult cancers in this short video>

“We followed up with another specialist, and I told him, ‘Look, we have all this information and no answers. I need help,’” Ashley said. He sent them to another hospital, urging them to leave right away — he didn’t even want them to take the time to pack a bag.

Aiden and Ashley hugging

Ashley and Aiden embracing during Aiden’s treatment.

They were right to rush. Doctors found masses in Aiden’s wrist, bone legions, and bone deterioration in his hands.

Yet, they still couldn’t tell Ashley why it was happening.

Aiden was able to go home for a bit, but he returned the next morning for surgery to biopsy one of the masses in his wrist.

That morning, Aiden really wasn’t feeling well. “He coded,” Ashley said. “His heart stopped beating, and he stopped breathing in my arms.”

Then, without explanation, he came back. Nothing seemed to be making sense in Aiden’s case.

Eventually, a bone marrow biopsy revealed that Aiden had an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The diagnosis was the explanation Ashley needed, but not the one she wanted to hear.

“I tried to stay numb to it because my prime focus had to be Aiden,” Ashley said, her voice trembling. “It was terrifying knowing that God gave me a child after I wasn’t supposed to have one, and he could be taken away so quickly and so young.”

BLOG: Team of Researchers Targets DNA to Help Kids With Hard-to-Treat Leukemias >

He immediately began his treatment of four rounds of very aggressive chemotherapy. It wasn’t always smooth sailing.

“Some rounds he went through without even a hiccup, and others he stopped speaking,” his mom said.

Aiden playing his ukulele

Aiden plays with his Disney-themed ukulele in the hospital.

But throughout his treatment, Aiden was his cooperative, funny self. The more his parents and his treatment team were able to explain to him, the more willing he was to comply.

“If he could participate and do things on his own, he would do it,” Ashley explained. “He would help count things, he would learn the names of his medications. If he knew what he was taking and why, he was going right along with it.”

Aiden became known for telling jokes around the hospital. Patients and staff would come visit him to hear his latest punchline.

Aiden with his arms up

Aiden triumphantly raises his arms in the air at the end of his chemo treatment.

Inspired by Aiden, Ashley’s friend Dominique organized a head-shaving event in Monrovia, California, this past March. Ashley was quick to pitch in and help.

“It’s a matter of explaining to people that we aren’t just a few crazy people asking people to shave their heads — it’s a whole movement for something that really matters,” Ashley said.

Aiden’s treatment is all done, and his biopsies have come back negative, with no cancer cells to be found. Now he can enjoy being a 4-year-old kid — free of hospital rooms and surgeries!

Help more kids like Aiden get back to being kids. Get involved with a fundraiser for childhood cancer research.

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