After a year of hospitalizations due to high fevers and abdominal pain, along with an appendectomy, 10-year-old Heath was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor in June 2019. He had actually experienced abdominal pain for nearly five years, a symptom that leads to neuroendocrine tumors often being misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Few blood tests are able to detect this cancer and the tumors do not easily show up on scans. The tumors can also secrete different hormones depending on their location—insulin if in the pancreas and serotonin if in the intestines—which can cause severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare enough on their own, but even more so in children. In addition, there is currently no cure for this cancer. Surgery, hormone treatments and chemotherapy can help, but it is a lifelong disease.
Since being diagnosed, Heath has endured a 5-hour surgery and over 20 biopsies of his liver, lymph nodes and intestines. He is treated locally in Atlanta but also visits a specialist in Denver. His doctors believe Heath has an additional disorder called Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome (ALPS) that is triggering his nervous system, which in turn triggers the cancer cells.
Heath is a 5th grader who loves baseball, but he has missed two seasons of play since being diagnosed with cancer. His father is active military with the Georgia Air National Guard and works at Robins Air Force base. His mother lost her job while in Colorado for an extended amount of time for Heath’s care. From ongoing travel expenses to out-of-pocket medical treatments, the bills have added up. Cancer has taken much from this family but, despite near constant physical pain, Heath remains a strong little fighter.
Every child who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer inspires us to Rally On to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures. Please join us in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation or setting up your own Rally fundraiser today.