In 2004, Ian was a healthy 4-year old visiting the dentist for his first teeth cleaning. After receiving a Novocain injection, which was blocked by an already existing tumor growing inside the right side of his face, a small bump appeared on Ian’s right temple. Over time, the bump grew into a tumor in his cheek and changed the shape of his face.
After months of consults with multiple doctors, Ian’s family met with a pediatric ear-nose-throat surgeon who diagnosed him with rhabdomyosarcoma. Ian was eventually referred to Columbia University Irving Medical Center and underwent a 5-hour surgery to remove the tumor. He also endured 12 months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation.
Ten years later, a bulge developed in the roof of Ian’s mouth. Further tests revealed it was osteosarcoma, a result of the radiation treatment from his first cancer. Once again, Ian had surgery to remove the tumor. But it also meant amputating his palate and top teeth and fitting him for prosthetics. Ian also underwent seven months of chemotherapy.
Today, Ian is no longer in treatment and is cancer-free. But his story serves to remind us that a cancer diagnosis affects the entire family. Parents often quit their jobs or take an extended absence to care for a sick child. It can be a challenging time – emotionally and financially. Ian’s mother stopped working both times he was diagnosed, remained by his side throughout his months-long stay in the hospital, and helped manage his care. Although the family incurred considerable debt and faced significant financial hardships, their priority was Ian’s health.
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