Three times I’ve received the call with the news that no parent ever wants to hear. “Your son has cancer,” “Jude’s cancer is back” and “Jude has relapsed again.” Each time the call has been more agonizing and gut-wrenching knowing that Jude’s treatment options are more limited and his prognosis is worse. And since each call has come as a total surprise, it speaks volumes to the strength that my son has to endure pain.
Jude was first diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at his 18-month well-child checkup in October 2013. The only symptom was bruising on his legs and the doctor sent us for blood work just to be safe. What I had hoped was just toddler clumsiness turned out to be cancer. Jude’s first battle with leukemia was tough and included a stay in the ICU, an aggressive ear infection that robbed him of hearing in his left ear and an infection in his central line that required surgery to replace the line.
We got the news Jude relapsed in January 2015 after his monthly spinal tap. Determined to make the most of his days before intense treatment started again, we rushed off to Disneyland to create some amazing memories. When Jude started his relapse treatment, we were blessed to be hospital neighbors with Kelsey Luria. Despite the age difference, Jude always enjoyed visiting with Kelsey or seeing her on laps in the hallways. Following more chemo and a trial immunotherapy drug,we departed Tucson so Jude could receive a cord blood transplant at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital in May 2015, just after his third birthday.
Less than three months after the transplant when Jude was just starting to recover from the grueling pre-transplant chemotherapy, we learned Jude had relapsed yet again. We were devastated. If this had happened more than two or three years ago, there would be no options left for Jude except hospice care. However, we are beyond grateful that a brand-new treatment harnessing the power of Jude’s immune system with modified cells, called CAR T-Cells, has come along with very promising initial results. Immediately we made plans to go from Minnesota to Tucson to Seattle, Washington to enroll Jude on the trial.
Aidan, and I are so grateful to Bald Beauties Project® for the opportunity to have beautiful photos of Jude, our younger son, Finn, and us together. With each relapse, we are acutely aware of the need to create special memories every day. Not only are the photos gorgeous, but the entire process of coming together as a family to smile, snuggle and celebrate life while our outstanding Bald Beauties photographer, Alicia, snapped our photos was equally important and joyous. We will hold on to the memories and photos with a special place in our hearts forever.