as told by his mom, Janelle.
Ashton was diagnosed with high-risk (Stage 4) Neuroblastoma at the end of May, 2015, three months short of his second birthday. He spent just over a month at Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre and had a big battle ahead of him.
Within a week of admittance, his health had deteriorated quickly and, by the time he went for the lymph node biopsy that would confirm the type of cancer we were facing, the doctors were having difficulties with his breathing. The mass was growing rapidly and pushing on his left lung and other organs. Ashton was put on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma to keep him stabilized.
The tumour continued to grow and we were told they were running out of options; the oncologists wanted to confirm the type of cancer before they started chemotherapy, but the biopsy results were still not in and the ventilator in pediatric critical care was maxed out. We were running out of time. Finally, the team of pediatric oncologists decided that they would put together a chemo plan based on what they could see in Ashton’s MRI in hopes that this would start to shrink the tumour.
The decision saved his life.
Over the next couple of days, his breathing started to improve. Neuroblastoma Stage 4 was confirmed. Within two weeks, the tumour had shrunk enough that Ashton’s lung capacity improved and he was taken off the ventilator, able to breathe on his own. He continued his intense chemotherapy schedule – every three weeks for the next four months.
Surgery took place in September to remove his left adrenal gland, kidney, and the tumour. Ashton continued to surprise the doctors and nurses with his ability to keep getting stronger and healthier.
After surgery and recovery, he was off to Sick Kids in Toronto for his stem cell transplant in October. We had harvested Ashton’s healthy stem cells in July so were able to give him his own and Ashton’s body accepted them very quickly. He did amazingly.
Through it all, he continued to surprise us with his happy, silly, playful personality.
While in Sick Kids, Ashton was in an isolation room and was given a very high dose of chemotherapy. He was in there for a total of 28 days and, during this time, only mom and dad were allowed to be with him so he was unable to see his brother or other family members. Ashton’s immune system was very weak for six months after his stem cell transplant but he continued to get stronger as time passed.
In December, Ashton started 20 days of radiation on his abdomen. We drove back and forth from Kitchener to London every day. Ashton was a trooper, being sedated each day for the radiation to then wake up happy and hungry. Most drives consisted of Ashton eating and talking all the way home!
From January to June of 2016, Ashton completed his immunotherapy treatment to reduce his risk of relapse and improve his chances of long-term survival – another very intense treatment with him spending a week or two in hospital every month, closely monitored. During all of his treatment, Ashton continued to have scans, tests, blood work, medications and blood transfusions.
As of July, 2016, Ashton’s last scan was clear with no evidence of the disease. Today, Ashton is back to his everyday life of being a busy, happy and full of energy little boy! We have learned from Ashton to live for the moment. He taught us to make the most of each day and he truly is our little superhero!
Reflecting on Ashton’s journey, Childcan has been there for our family since day one and we are very appreciative. Childcan’s financial assistance during Ashton’s treatments was a blessing. Childcan provided us with financial assistance, meal vouchers, and parking passes. We are grateful for these services.
As your child fights cancer, life still goes on in the world and Childcan helped us move forward with the support that we needed during this time.
You can never be prepared for your child to have cancer but having someone to talk to that understands your situation is truly amazing. Renee at Childcan made us feel comfortable by letting us ask questions so we could understand the world of childhood cancer a little better. We are grateful to have such an amazing organization like Childcan during our toughest times. Their support for our family is more than we could ever ask for.