Family’s Future Looks Brighter After Weathering the Trials of Childhood Cancer
Heather + Dominick
After delivery, little infant Heather was quickly screened for retinoblastoma, a usually rare form of eye cancer. But new parents, Daniel and Marian, were aware their baby could test positive as Marian is a carrier of the gene and a cancer survivor, herself. Even with preparation, Heather’s diagnosis of childhood cancer was understandably devastating … but a light glimmered at the end of their darkness.
Heather began laser treatment sessions at 11 days old. One especially intense treatment was used to destroy her tumor, but rather than destroying it, her tumor doubled in size. Her parents had no choice but to begin chemotherapy for Heather.
The NCCS was there to support their family through this decision by easing travel and lodging costs to several out-of-town appointments. Happily, after two more years of treatment, Heather’s vision and life was spared.
The joy of Heather’s successful treatment was shadowed by latent effects of chemo, including a terrifying night of an extremely high fever cluing Daniel and Marian into what turned out to be a dangerous blood infection. The NCCS stood close by in lightening the load of Heather’s increased treatment needs as a result of her chemo-related infection.
“When the NCCS pays for transportation, they aren’t just paying for trips to oncologists. They take a holistic approach and look at all related items, like follow-up care,” said Daniel.
In 2010 Daniel and Marian’s second child was born – a son, Erik. Soon after birth, he was sedated for testing and thankfully, did not have the genetic mutation that can cause retinoblastoma.
Two years later they welcomed another happy addition to their family – a second son, Dominick. Tragically, Dominick was not as lucky as his older brother; he was immediately diagnosed with retinoblastoma. At first, taking swift measures meant finding and treating a tumor so small, it was undetectable even by ultrasound.
However, only a few months later, tumors appeared in both eyes which meant six rounds of chemo for baby Dominick. The NCCS was paramount for their family to be able to make it to hundreds of appointments at different hospitals throughout Heather and Dominick’s lives.
Daniel describes the peace their family felt by the NCCS’ assistance, “The best place for a child’s treatment is where they will be seen. I can’t even begin to explain how much of a game-changer that is. It is so helpful to have a partner with that kind of trust and rapport we have with the organization that stems from working in sync with our family.”
Daniel and Marian would never wish for the difficult experiences their children have gone through. However, they’ve observed positive changes for the kids individually, and also in the strength of their family bond.
Heather and Dominick have a perspective and determination most children cannot know. Now nine years old, Heather is part sweetheart, part tough-as-nails and incredibly resilient.
Dominick just recently began kindergarten but already aims to be an eye surgeon like his doctor, his hero. For Daniel, Marian, Heather, Erik and Dominick, the future ahead looks bright with promise.