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On June 26, 2021, after a very normal day, Cole’s mother Ashleigh noticed a lump in his neck as he was getting out of the bathtub. The lump didn’t hurt, and Cole had no “sick” symptoms at all. Cole’s family knew there were a ton of possibilities of what it could be. Cole went to his primary care pediatrician, Dr. Milner, the very next day on a Sunday. Cole’s doctor takes turns working Sundays with other doctors, so Ashleigh was very relieved to get there and see that Dr. Milner was there as she knows Cole really well. Dr. Milner did a very thorough exam and told us she just couldn’t tell us more without various testing done first. She acted immediately and sent us to outpatient in the hospital for our very first tests. Cole had blood work done and a chest X-ray. Everything looked normal so far. The next day, Cole stayed home and missed part of his Great Wolf Lodge trip so we could get an ultrasound on his neck. After that, Cole was able to enjoy 1 night/2 days at Great Wolf while we waited for more info and next steps. Dr. Milner was in touch very soon to tell us that Cole’s lump was pushing on his trachea and that she wanted him to be seen by an ENT the next day when we got back in town. At this point, it looked like a thyroid issue. We saw Dr. Gungor the next day. Cole was cracking up at all of Dr. Gungor’s jokes, and he was so good at calming Cole. Dr. Gungor ordered an MRI and mentioned wanting to biopsy once we had a better picture of the lump. The next week we did the MRI on a Friday and spent the weekend trying not to think about what was happening. Cole spent a normal weekend at his dad’s house having fun and just being a kid. Cole’s ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy couldn’t be scheduled until 2 weeks after MRI, so Dr. Gungor attempted a FNA biopsy in the clinic without sedation, only local anesthesia. That was our first really hard test/procedure. Cole really struggled, but a sample was obtained and tested. Although the results were inconclusive, what was seen did indicate a possible cancer. We were told not to assume yet and that there were still very many other benign possibilities. We tried to both stay optimistic and also begin to accept that we might be looking at cancer. We proceeded with the ultrasound-guided FNA biopsy hoping to get more answers. It was a very anxious few days waiting for this process. The results from the second FNA were still inconclusive, but indicated more evidence of cancer.
By this time, Cole’s lump had gotten larger and his breathing had begun to be affected. Many doctors coordinated on what to do next. One of Cole’s primary care Nurse Practitioners put in a call to our local St. Jude clinic Feist-Weiller. At that point we were connected with a Nurse Practiomer named Diana. She wanted to expedite getting Cole a diagnosis especially since his breathing was getting a little worse with each passing day. She called me from her cell on her day off telling me she was planning for Cole to go to St. Jude in Memphis the next week. After she considered more and consulted with the rest of Dr. Jeroudi’s team, their clinic called back the next day and said they wanted to go ahead and see Cole for a repeat chest X-ray to see if there were changes from the X-ray 1 month prior. We headed to Shreveport thinking we would be coming back home and packing bags for the next week. However, the chest X-ray showed a signicant increase in trachea deviation and with Cole’s off and on heavy and noisy breathing, they didn’t want to wait any longer. The Feist-Weiller team did some more bloodwork and started an IV (Cole was so sick of needle sticks at this point!). We waited for a flight to be coordinated, and then Ashleigh and Cole flew on a private jet with a medical team up to Memphis. It was a scary day, but I think we were all so relieved Cole was going to get immediate support for his breathing and that we didn’t have to spend another week at home worrying about his breathing. We arrived at St. Jude’s on Thursday July 29 at 8PM.
If you’ve ever heard anything about St. Jude’s, I don’t have to tell you that the entire healthcare team here was amazing and did everything they could to help Cole cope with all the procedures and testing that had to be done upon arrival and the first few days. Many blood draws, and finally a needle biopsy (bigger needle for a bigger sample) that gave us our diagnosis. On Saturday July 31 we were given the news that the second FNA biopsy was accurate: Cole has T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma which is an aggressive type of blood cancer. This news wasn’t totally unexpected, but was still devastating to receive. That was a hard day for us, but Cole never lost his smile. He was happy to have an answer about what his lump was, and St. Jude team explained it to him really well. He was happy to hear he could immediately start medicine to begin shrinking the lump.
We know Cole will be going through some intensive chemo treatment in Memphis for a while. The entire process will take approximately 2.5 years, but we should be able to complete a large portion of the treatment in Shreveport closer to home. Despite the aggressive nature of this cancer, the prognosis is good and the cure/remission rates are high.
This is a lot for us to process and has been difficult for the entire family. Cole is definitely the one in the best spirits. As long as a procedure isn’t being done, he’s quite happy here at St. Jude’s. We still have more testing to come to find out how extensive Cole’s cancer is before we begin chemo.
We are leaning on God, family, friends, and of course the amazing St. Jude staff. We know that God loves Cole and that we have a lot of people praying for Cole and his recovery. We are so thankful to be surrounded by love and support. We know Cole is going to kick cancer and be healthy again!