Meet Avery! Dad tells the story of a son with cancer…
We took Avery to our family Dr. on Friday April 23 because his tummy was hard and he had been constipated for the last few days. The Dr. did an X-ray which showed us that Mr. Avery was very constipated and full of gas again. We had been dealing with this problem for the last 3 weeks. They prescribed him something to make him go and we were off to Saginaw. After arriving Kirsten and Avery played outside for a few hours. When they came inside Sarah’s mom said Avery felt warm so Sarah checked his temp. It was 101 degrees, she called our family Dr. and he told us to take Avery to the ER. The ER Dr. at Covenant wasted no time and did an ultrasound of Avery’s tummy. A few minutes later I overheard him talking to our family Dr. telling him that he was not an ultrasound expert but what he saw was not stool! An hour later Avery was on his way to have his first CT scan. The CT scan was done and we waited. The ER Dr. came into his room with 3 nurses and asked Sarah and I to step out in the hall. That is when devastation entered our world. He told us that Avery had a Wilms tumor on his left kidney which meant nothing to us until Sarah asked “what do we do now?” The ER Dr. then told us that the tumor would most likely be removed, and he would need to undergo Chemotherapy! Sarah said “Chemo? He has Cancer?” All the Dr. could do was shake his head yes- and we both fell to the floor. Our Avery has Cancer!!! After collecting ourselves the best we could we went back into the room with Avery. I couldn’t look at him without crying. Total DEVASTATION! Avery made me smile like he always does though; he made the nursing team dress like ninja’s. He was on cloud 9 playing with them. About an hour later we were on our way to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo , so Avery could begin his recovery. Another CT scan confirmed the Wilms tumor and it needed to be remover right away. That’s when we met the wonderful team of Dr’s that will be our heroes forever. Dr. Leinwand was his surgeon and Dr Elliot his Oncologist. Two of the smartest people I have ever met. They told us what to expect for the next few days after his surgery including Chemo and Radiation schedules.
Avery’s surgery was set for Sunday morning at 7:00 am. Watching the Pre Op team take Avery was one of the hardest things we ever had to do up until that point. The surgery went as planned and Dr. Leinwand came out to let us know how it went. He told us that every thing went good but there was a small spill onto a surgical cloth that was in Avery’s abdomen. After he was out of recovery Avery made his way back to his room where a gift basket the size of a Volkswagen and full of toys was waiting for him. This was from an organization called Crayons for Kids.
During his recovery Avery made friends in the hospital that will be with him for the rest of his life. The Wonderful nursing team and the people from Child Life Services at Bronson Children’s Hospital made the day’s go by pretty fast. One week later, and we were on our way home. Chemo started on the next Tuesday, his schedule was for weekly treatments for the next 10 weeks then every 3rd week until September 7th. During his second Chemo appointment we were informed that Avery’s Cancer was upgraded to stage 3. That meant he would need 7 Radiation treatments starting in two days and his Chemo would continue until October 19th.
So what does all this mean? What happens next?
Our first visit to the West Michigan Cancer Center was scary to say the least. We had no idea what to expect, mainly because we were not expecting radiation. The staff was very kind and caring to all of our needs. Avery would need to be sedated during the treatments to make sure he would not move. This was another very difficult thing for me to do. I would hold Avery in my arms and they would put him to sleep. Watching your child’s eyes roll back and feeling his body go limp everyday is something that no one should ever have to do. As hard as it was for mom and me it was 10 times harder on Mr. Avery. After his 7th treatment was finished Avery was given more gifts from the staff at the West Michigan Cancer Center. What a great group of people.
Avery has a port in his chest; this is where his medication and blood work will be done for the next year. He has been receiving 3 different Chemo drugs. All of them have side effects, what we see the most is the sickness for a few days after his treatment. His twin sister pushes him pretty hard to get better quickly so they can play. After 1 or 2 days he is ready to go. The other more noticeable side effect that everyone sees is his hair loss. Avery’s hair stayed for a while until he received his 2nd dose of Doxorubicin. After that, his hair fell out very fast. If you rubbed his head your hand would be covered with hair and is pillow was solid hair. After 2 days of this his hair was gone! Believe it or not the loss of his hair was much harder on Sarah and I then what it was on Avery. We told him that his hair would come back when his treatments were done. (Another very difficult thing for us to do). Avery had his port accessed every time we went to the clinic. We hold him while the nurse pokes him. He hates the poke! Now his port is gone and all labs and injections are done in his arm. With the help of numbing cream he handles this like an old pro.
October 22nd 2010 was Avery’s last treatment. Since then he has had C/T scans, ultrasounds, X-Ray’s and lots of labs. All of the testing has been clear, no more cancer! What a relief! Avery was able to start kindergarten in 2010 with his twin sister. Everything is going great! Until Avery has a cold, the flu, a sniffle, coughs, or he is tired. As parents we can not help but to “Freak Out”. Any little thing gets your mind racing. It’s only human nature. On December 21st 2010 Avery and Kirsten delivered toys to the children who are in the hospital and receiving treatments. What a great day for our family. We delivered over 100 new toys to kids fighting some type of illness. This has turned into a yearly tradition that has grown so much that we needed 2 trucks to deliver all of the toys to the Magic room located on the 3rd floor at Bronson Children’s Hospital and to the oncology clinic. Avery and his sister love returning the kindness and generosity that was given to us during our struggles.
If not for the support of our family, friends, total strangers and great organizations like the American Cancer Society, Crayons for Kids, the National Children’s Cancer Society and now, Cancer Families United, this would have been much more difficult for us to face. Because of Avery’s journey, we were introduced to some amazing people. People that we had never crossed paths with before are now some of our best friends. We share a common bond, unfortunately– it’s Childhood Cancer. We are so grateful for all of you and all that you have done.
Jason, Sarah, Avery and Kirsten Kushion