2019- Jack Callahan

Member of the “club” nobody wants to be in

Childhood cancer is the club that no family ever applies to join. For years Mike and I would see commercials for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital on TV and say, “Wow, I just can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with that.” On February 6th 2019 our family joined this “club” and began to find out just what the journey of childhood cancer was like.

Jack Patrick Callahan (he tells you the full thing when you ask him his name) is a three-year old boy full of energy, life and curiosity. He loves basketball, swimming, super heroes, Santa Claus, the Tar Heels, mascots of all kinds and Paris! Yes, I said Paris. J

In late January of this year Jack began complaining of pain in his leg. He had not been sleeping well. He’d been waking up every hour or so complaining of pain and that afternoon at school he refused to walk. Over the weekend his pain worsened even with a strict regimen of Tylenol and ibuprofen every few hours. By Sunday he had essentially stopped walking.

On Monday, February 4th the pediatrician got him an appointment with a pediatric orthopedist at UVA Children’s. That lead to an eventual admission into the ER for imaging and tests, which turned into an admission to the hospital.  Tuesday the 5th Jack had an MRI to assess his leg, which turned up a tumor in his pelvis. Wednesday we were told the tumor was malignant and had metastasized to his lungs. Friday, we received the final diagnosis of an extragonadal yolk sac germ cell tumor. Saturday, February 9th, less than a week into this journey, Jack received a port and we began chemotherapy.

Jack went through four 21-day cycles of chemotherapy at UVA Children’s Hospital. Initial indications were that the tumor had responded well. It went from a mass the size of a grapefruit to the size of a lime. As we were preparing for our next steps, surgery, it was discovered that Jack’s cancer was again active.

We consulted with experts at UVA, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Dana Farber in Boston. Within the course of one week a new plan was developed for Jack and we decamped to Philadelphia to begin his next round of treatment.

This next phase of treatment will involve two rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, and two rounds of high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant. The high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant will involve 30-day hospital stays.

We have just begun treatments at CHOP and if all goes according to plan, we will be finished with treatment in the beginning of November. Jack will likely spend his fourth birthday and Halloween (one of his favorite holidays) in the hospital. Our family will also spend the majority of this time away from our home. We feel fortunate to have access to amazing care and the opportunity to eradicate this disease within him. But, we look forward to the day when this disease does not take away years from families and kids like Jack don’t have to spend their birthdays and holidays inside hospital walls.

We are incredibly grateful for all of what St. Baldrick’s does and for each of your efforts to raise awareness about childhood cancer and the advances that still need to be made! Thank you from the depths of our hearts.