Arkansas Children’s Hospital Gets Lives Back To Normal
Editors note: Following is the story of Hudson Stane, 5-year-old son of Leah Woolsey of Ozark and Justin Stane of Fayetteville, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 3, with bulk disease in 2013. It is the fifth of a 6 part series about area residents experiences at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which will run leading up to the Charleston Music Fest that will be held at the Charleston Fairgrounds on April 5th from 3pm to 11pm. Proceeds from the Music fest will benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Food will be provided by Sacco’s Concession.
In July of 2013, Hudson Stane, his brother Parker and his mom, Leah, were having a great day fishing on the Mulberry River. We were wading in shallow water, waiting patiently for the fish to bite when Hudson slapped the back of his neck and said, “Ow,” Leah said. “I hurried over to Hudson and pushed his long, blonde, surfer-boy hair over to the side and noticed he had a bunch of lumps on his neck.” Assuming he was having an allergic reaction to a bug bite, we rushed home where I gave him Benadryl, she added.
After several days of Benadryl, the lumps on his neck were still there. He didn’t complain about them, but I took him to a local doctor anyway, Leah said.
After examining him and running some tests without fining the cause, Hudson was referred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Hudson met with the first doctor at ACH at the end of August. Hudson’s lumps had grown in size by then, but still he never complained of them hurting. The doctor performed a physical examination and ordered an ultrasound of his neck and treated him for infected lymph nodes.
After six weeks of antibiotics Hudson’s lymph nodes didn’t go down in size. In October they visited Dr. Beene at the UAMS/ACH Center for Children in Lowell. The one hour drive, as opposed to two hours, was much more convenient, Leah said. By this time, Hudson’s neck looked very abnormal, she added. “Some days, especially when he didn’t feel well, his neck looked deformed. Other days, they seemed to go down in size.”
The enlarged lymph nodes never bothered him, though. Hudson continued to play hard at school and at home, and he even played soccer in the local youth athletics program. Dr. Beene saw this as a good sign, but was very concerned about the size of some of his lymph nodes, Leah said. “She was very thorough.”
We didn’t leave her clinic that day without visiting radiology, drawing blood, and measuring his lymph nodes with a measuring tape, Leah said. She tested him for several infectious diseases, but warned me that if those tests came back negative, we would be looking at something “much more serious,” she said. “Dr. Beene didn’t utter the word “cancer” in front of my baby boy, but I knew what she meant.” I left the clinic that day with a feeling that Hudson had a long road ahead, but I felt confident in Dr. Beene, Leah said. “I knew, if it was possible, that she was just as concerned as I was.”
Several days passed before all the test results came in, but Dr. Beene would personally call me every time test results would come, Leah said. First call, negative. Second call, negative. Third call, everything had come back negative. Dr. Beene knew a biopsy needed to be done in order to determine exactly what was going on in Hudson’s little body, so she referred him to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist back at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. There they met Dr. Nolder during the first part of November. She examined Hudson’s neck and was able to work him in for a CT scan that day. She knew she needed to biopsy, but she still wanted a look inside, Leah said. “I was relieved she ordered the scan, but I was ready for answers.”
The scan was done on a Friday, so they had to wait until Monday for a call. I was happy Hudson was just 5, Leah said. “Five year olds don’t torture themselves with worry like mamas do.”
The following Monday after school, Leah got the call she wanted but certainly wasn’t looking forward to. “Dr. Nolder’s nurse told me the Radiologist said Hudson had clustered, bulky, masses in his neck. She didn’t say cancer, but wanted to do the biopsy sooner rather than later.” That Friday, the week before Thanksgiving, Hudson went into surgery for his neck biopsy. I asked the doctor before surgery started if she thought she might have an idea of what we were looking at as soon as surgery was over, Leah said. She replied with, “I already have an idea. I think we are looking at some type of lymphoma.” The following Tuesday, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving, Dr. Nolder called with the biopsy results; it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I was at least thankful we were looking at a 90% survival rate and thankful Hudson was being taken care of by Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Since December of 2013, Hudson has been receiving treatment at the hematology/oncology clinic at ACH. A PET scan showed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma not only in his neck, but also in his chest, and a small spot in his abdomen. He is considered Stage 3, with bulk disease because of the size of the masses in his neck. He receives his chemotherapy through a port that was surgically placed in his chest. Hudson is taking the Lymphoma and its treatment in stride and thinks the port makes him look like “Iron Man.”
After four cycles (about 12 weeks) of chemotherapy treatment, Hudson was scanned again to see how he was responding. The PET scan and CT scan showed that the cancer was inactive, but he has one lymph node in his neck that is still enlarged with residual (foreign) tissue, that puts him at a higher risk of the cancer returning. Since cancer is harder to treat if it comes back, the doctor has recommended radiation therapy. Some more scans will be needed before radiation can begin, and a special head piece will be built for Hudson so he can keep very still during radiation therapy, ensuring that the radiation is precisely aimed at his neck and doesn’t scatter to other parts of his body. Hudson is doing very well and the doctors are very optimistic that the end of this battle will come as soon as radiation is over, Leah said.
At the beginning of each chemotherapy treatment cycle, Hudson and Leah stayed at Arkansas Children’s hospital for 3 nights while he received his most aggressive chemo treatments. The doctors and nurses at ACH ensure that Hudson is as comfortable as possible, Leah said. Several medications are given to prevent some of the side effects of chemo. He has only recently began getting sick after some of his treatments, but the hospital staff always respond quickly, making sure Hudson doesn’t feel sick for long, she added.
He has also enjoyed some wonderful activities while he has been hospitalized for chemo or neutropenia (low counts), Leah said. “Hudson has decorated Christmas cookies, played with trained animals, played with other patients in a large playroom, and attended a Pre-K Art class. Child life specialists come by often to shower Hudson with gifts and attention. Members of the ACH “red team” bring Hudson x-box games and movies to watch.”
It’s such a team effort at ACH, Leah said. “They keep him healthy and entertained, so I can do my job as a mama and love on him as much as possible.” As a mother, you would never imagine your own child sick with cancer, she said. “It’s just so unbelievable.” I feel like Hudson, his siblings, and I have been living a life, which belongs to a different family, not mine, Leah said.
During a time when our lives have been hectic, scary, and out of control, Arkansas Children’s Hospital has had total control of my son’s treatment, she said. “And because of that, Hudson will get back to his life very soon.”