Tough GuyPublished 9:58am Thursday, April 3, 2014
MURFREESBORO – Four times under the knife; multiple MRI’s and CT scans; blood transfusions that take the fingers on both hands to count; a stem cell transplant; and numerous rounds of chemo and radiation therapy.
That constant buzz of medical activity would lead one to think of an older patient. But it’s not…..rather they belong to three-year-old Henry Hodges, the son of Melissa Parker and Chris Hodges of Murfreesboro.
However, despite all the physical pain and mental anguish his little body has endured for nearly two years, one thing is for certain….little Henry is a fighter.
Shortly before his second birthday, Henry was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor or ATRT in June of 2012. The prognosis was not good as his parents learned their son was given a slim 10 percent chance to survive.
Now, nearly two years later and enduring enough medical procedures to last a lifetime, Henry is still battling, still fighting. His spirit remains unbroken, a strong characteristic that has helped his loving family and a small army of close friends and supporters endure these tough times.
“On June 12, 2012 we were faced with some of the worst news a parent can ever hear……he has a mass, the doctors told us,” said Parker. “Henry was only 22 months old at the time and we were being told that our baby had a mass in his brain that needed to be removed immediately. We were given very little hope from the doctors that Henry’s prognosis would be anything good.”
But instead of letting that news doom their lives, the family rallied to Henry’s side.
“We decided to focus on the positives each day and the hope that Henry would get better,” Parker stated.
In February of this year, Henry had his 12-month MRI after treatment completion and the family received some good news for a change.
“His tumor is stable,” Parker revealed, “but we did not get here without a fight. Henry has fought harder than any other person I know since that dreaded day in 2012. His treatment was difficult and required more than anyone realized during those first few days of his diagnosis.”
Between June of 2012 and March of 2013, Henry was “in treatment” for 269 days, of which he was an in-patient in the hospital for 117 days. He spent July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital during his treatment.
While hospitalized, many of his days were spent in isolation with visitors limited and Henry being confined to his small room in fear that he would get sick from something he picked up from others. Henry’s treatment included two rounds of traditional chemotherapy, three rounds of consolidated high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, and 28 days of proton radiation therapy.
“Each of these rounds of chemo were intended to knock everything out, all counts at zero, and they did just that,” Parker said.
Henry’s treatment required four surgeries, one of which was an attempt to resect part of his tumor. He received 10 different chemotherapy drugs, including rescue medications, and 35 different medications for various side effects and infections caused by treatment. Many of the chemotherapy drugs that he received were designed for adult cancers, not for his little body. However, he was forced to endure these drugs and all of their side effects in hopes of saving his life.
During his treatment he required 10 blood transfusions and 20 platelet transfusions. Henry has undergone 31 tests including MRIs, CT scans and various other tests to check for side effects from treatment. He will continue to have MRIs every three months for at least another two years, then moving to four and six month intervals, according to his mother.
Since having his central venous line removed, Henry has to have an IV inserted for each test and blood draw at his appointments.
“As much as I hate to see my child go through this every three months, I know that it is not a choice as we must continue to monitor his body in order to know if anything new develops or if his tumor begins to change,” Parker said. “Henry continues to handle all that he must endure because of this disease with very little complaint and a smile at the end of the day.”
Parker added that one of the most important things her family has learned while traveling this journey with Henry is that no one is guaranteed tomorrow.
“We must treat each day as a gift with our loved ones and really live each day taking advantage of every moment that we have,” she stressed. “We have also realized that people are truly caring individuals and the amount of support that we have received from the beginning of this journey all the way through to this point has been unbelievable. We have been overwhelmed by the support that we have received and continue to receive.
“We would like to thank everyone for their words of encouragement, prayers, donations, participation in Henry’s Heroes Golf Tournament and involvement in Henry and Daniel’s Holiday Helpers,” she added.
Prior to June of 2012, childhood cancer was not something the family ever thought about, but now face that reality each and every day.
“Awareness must be brought to this horrific disease so that children do not have to continue to give up their childhoods to sit in hospital rooms and fight a war much bigger than them,” Parker remarked. “We must begin to demand more funding for our children. All types of childhood cancer combined only receive 3.8 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget… this is unacceptable.”
She continued, “As many of you know, Henry is not the only child in our area that has been affected by this disease, we all must realize that it is not just a few children that we hear about or see on television; it is my child; it is our children. Every day in America 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.”
Parker promised that she and her family are working hard this year to bring more awareness to the local and surrounding communities about childhood cancer, as well as to continue to support youngsters at Children’ Hospital of the King’s Daughters that are in treatment during the holidays.
You can continue to follow Henry’s journey and the family’s efforts at bringing awareness to childhood cancer at Henry’s Facebook page “Parker Hodges” and his Carepages site at http://www.carepages.com, SupportingParkerHodges. To learn more about Henry & Daniel’s Holiday Helpers visit http://hdholidayhelpers.wordpress.com/
If you would like additional information regarding childhood cancer statistics and how you can get involved in the fight for funding, visit www.thetruth365.org.