First-time parents Katie and Gary Purchase became overwhelmed when their happy 6-month-old son, Gideon, grew increasingly irritable and regressed with eating and sleeping. He’d been great with both prior. So, with his first chompers pushing through, they chalked it up to teething. All after, two teeth were coming in at once. And why wouldn’t they think teething? No parent would assume the worst … cancer.
“We were thinking though, ‘People say teething is bad but, come on, this is ridiculous!’” the Tennessee mother tells Babble. “He wouldn’t sleep without being held and was just uncomfortable [overall].”
None of the teething remedies provided enough of a relief. Eventually, a yellow bruise and lump appeared on Gideon’s head. And his pediatrician delivered the heart-wrenching diagnosis: stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.
Gideon was transported to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. “His entire face and skull was full of cancer, and all of his bones were full of cancer,” Sara Federico, MD, assistant member of the Department of Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told Today. “He had a large tumor that was present in the middle of his body.”
Doctors suggested a new immunotherapy-based clinical trial combining an antibody with chemotherapy at the beginning, middle, and end of treatment. Gideon’s health rapidly improved within six weeks with astounding results!
“He went from 84 percent of his marrow having tumor to zero percent,” Federico explained on Today. A bone marrow transplant and radiation followed and, after 15 months, Gideon was cancer free.
“You yearn for the day when you’re not toting around an entire IV tree behind your kid. And then it happens, and you just kind of sit there like, ‘Wow. We made it,’” Gary said on Today’s “Thanks and Sharing” series.
Now 2-1/2, Gideon totes around toys like a “normal”’ kid. “Sports are his favorite activity. He loves balls of any kind — basketball, soccer, golf, tennis — and he knows how to use each,” Katie says.
But Gideon is not a “normal” kid. He’s a lifesaving hero. How, you ask? His participation in the clinical trial has led to a medical discovery that will impact future treatment for many.
“It’s an incredible feeling that, in the future, when families hear the word ‘neuroblastoma,’ they’re going to be given odds that are so much higher and offered much more hope,” proclaims a happy-teared Katie.
“Our clinical trial is a unique approach that has doubled the number of patients who are responding to treatment at an early time point. While the trial is ongoing and we have yet to know if the improved early response equates to long-term cure, we are optimistic that this novel combination of antibody with chemotherapy will lead to more children being cured of their neuroblastoma,” Dr. Federico tells Babble.
As much as 75 percent of St. Jude’s funds come from generous donors, so Katie hopes fellow parents will support the organization that saved her son’s life. “St. Jude is obviously on the cutting edge of research for cancer treatments for kids,” she says.
Plus, families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food. The organization strives to fulfill each and every need beyond that too. They even treated Katie and Gary to a well-deserved break. “One night, St. Jude sent my husband and me to a [date night] concert,” Katie says.
Katie says Gideon’s cancer battle was life-altering and gifted the understanding of what matters most to her: family, faith, and laughter. Maybe (aside from immunotherapy-based clinical trials, of course) laughter really is the best medicine … and cancer-free baby giggles offer just the right dosage.