4 Years Old
Colby was found to have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, in December 2004.
Dread took hold of Deanna Stafford as she drove her son to a doctor’s appointment. She didn’t know why, but something just felt wrong. The weekend before, the family had just fi nished celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, during which the then 3-year-old Colby developed swelling around his eyes, followed by what appeared to be a rash on his forehead and more swelling in his lymph nodes. Deanna had gone to work that morning and had not thought much about her son’s symptoms. Surely it was just allergies or even an eye infection, she and her husband believed. But something inside told her differently. “I knew it was something bad,” she said. “I just had a feeling.” So, as she and her husband drove Colby to the doctor’s office, she quietly prayed.
After completing a round of tests, the Staffords were back in their car, making the 25-minute trip home. When they arrived, there was a voice mail asking that they call the doctor’s offi ce. She was told she and her husband should return to discuss the results. Colby’s spleen was swollen, the doctor said. His white blood cell count was extraordinarily high, and there appeared to be a mass in his chest. Colby had ALL. The doctor gave the family some options, with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the top of the list.
AT ST. JUDE:
The Staffords left home at 11 p.m. and drove through the night, reaching St. Jude by 6 a.m. “I was expecting to pull up and be told I needed to go around to the back door, or go in (another) door to fi nd where we needed to go,” Deanna said. Instead, the registration clerk told them, “We are glad you are here. We’ve been waiting for you. We were starting to get worried.” That level of concern shocked Deanna and reinforced in her mind that her son was in the right place.
Colby was placed in intensive care for the fi rst few days after his arrival at St. Jude. For the fi rst six weeks of his treatment, Colby was unable to eat. He lost six pounds from his tiny frame and stayed in bed for almost the entire six weeks. When his energy levels finally returned, he had to re-learn how to walk. But after that initial period, Colby, who loves watching Popeye® cartoons, is doing well. He will continue to receive treatments for more than two years.