“This is a story of our son Donovan.”
The simple first sentence on Alicia Trentham’s myspaceTM blog from September 24, 2008 offers no clue that the reader may need to have a box of tissues handy. As Alicia tells the story of her 2-year-old son’s pediatric cancer diagnosis, treatment and eventual recovery, you feel the family’s shock and devastation when an ordinary day suddenly becomes the day a parent most fears.
It was during a routine evaluation of a heart murmur in Dayton Children’s cardiology department in February 2008, that Alicia first heard her son had several tumors above his stomach. “I was confused and scared at the same time,” Alicia remembers. “I thought he would just have surgery to take the tumors out and we would be done. Cancer never occurred to me.”
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The Trenthams of Oregonia, Ohio were back at Dayton Children’s the next day for scans to get a better look at the tumor. Donovan’s sister Destiny even missed school to support her little brother.
The worst news a parent can get
In medical imaging, Donovan was given a Kool-Aid flavored contrast liquid to drink. The family waited as all the images were taken and processed. A nurse called them back to a consultation room where the images from Donovan’s tests were displayed on a lighted box. Elizabeth Ey, MD, explained what the images showed. Alicia was speechless. “I couldn’t tell much at first, but it was confirmed—my baby boy had several tumors.”
Because cancer was suspected, they met with Emmett Broxson, MD, director of hematology/oncology at Dayton Children’s, that same day.
“When we met with him, he had all the test results,” Alicia says. “He explained everything to us in terms we could understand, but it was the worst news parents could ever hear. Donovan’s tumors, weren’t just tumors, they were cancer—neuroblastoma.” Alicia learned this is an aggressive cancer of the nerve cells that primarily affects infants and children.
“I listened to Dr. Broxson with my heart and soul because my mind couldn’t process what he was saying. I could only hold my son and cry,” she says.
A biopsy two days later confirmed that Donovan had stage III neuroblastoma (stage IV is the most serious neuroblastoma).
“I knew we needed to get Donovan fixed,” says Chad. “We put a lot of trust in everybody at Dayton Children’s. Dr. Broxson was great with Donovan and now the two of them are good friends.”
Charles Goodwin, MD, a pediatric surgeon, performed Donovan’s surgery on February 11, 2008. “A biopsy is needed to be 100 percent sure about a child’s diagnosis and helps determine the treatment plan,” he explains. At the same time, he put in a catheter that would be used for administering chemotherapy. The plan was to shrink the tumors with chemotherapy and then remove them.
A pediatric surgeon at Dayton Children’s for more than 32 years, Dr. Goodwin has been involved in the lives of many children with cancer and those facing other life-threatening conditions. “It’s devastating to parents, but I always encourage parents not to give up. You can be realistic and remain optimistic. It helps the child when the parents are involved and have a positive attitude,” he says.
After nine months of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell harvest and transplant, and surgery, Donovan began to recover. Two years later, Donovan is considered to be in remission, but still has a CT scan every three months to make sure no tumors have returned.
Kid-sized radiation doses
Because children like Donovan often have numerous medical imaging tests such as CT scans and x-rays throughout their cancer treatment and follow-up, our pediatric radiologists make sure children receive the lowest radiation doses possible.
“Donovan has been able to benefit from newer technology and newer research to fight the cancer battle. Our goal is to minimize the amount of radiation, to do as little harm as possible, but still be effective in making sure the tumor is gone,” says Elizabeth Ey, MD, director of medical imaging, and a pediatric radiologist.
Fortunately, the pediatric cancer experts at Dayton Children’s were able to create a hopeful ending to Donovan’s story as they do for hundreds of other children treated for cancer every year at the pediatric cancer center. “Almost two years after Donovan’s last treatment, there are no signs of neuroblastoma,” says Dr. Broxson.
Along with the doctors who cared for Donovan, the Trenthams remember other staff as well. “We feel welcome every time we go there,” says Chad. “Everyone is always in good spirits. We walk through the door, and everyone knows our name. We know we’ll be taken care of.”
Looking back, Alicia says Donovan’s cancer journey has helped her focus on what is really important. “It’s a blessing that things have turned out the way they have. Donovan’s cancer has also been hard on my daughter, but today we all focus on spending time with each other and making each day the happiest it can be.”
As for Donovan? “He just enjoys being a boy,” says Chad. “He plays in the dirt, enjoys his bicycle and runs around like nothing was ever wrong.”
The Comprehensive Care Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Dayton Children’s provides state-of-the-art services in oncology and hematology. For more information on our services, and learn about our pediatric cancer treatment visit our Children's Care Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
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