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A living testimony: Isaiah, PPB, type III survivor and family pay it forward


Early in January 2010, at the age of 3, my eldest son Isaiah was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, pleuropulmonary blastoma (PPB), type 3. We never could have imagined our child would ever be presented with such a battle. But there we were. One moment life seemed normal, and then the next our world was forever changed. 

PPB is an aggressive form of cancer that symptomatically tends to mimic pneumonia. Because of this, when symptoms initially occurred, it was not known that cancer was a possibility. It wasn’t until the tumor actually burst, and emergency surgery had to be performed, that Isaiah was properly diagnosed. Prior to that point, his pediatrician had been treating him for pneumonia almost yearly, as well as for asthmatic symptoms. Isaiah had never had any scans of his lungs taken, prior to the tumor bursting.

Upon removal of the tumor and the receipt of an official diagnosis, Isaiah underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation and a few surgeries.

In the beginning, it was extremely difficulty for our entire family. We were all learning to live a new norm, with a new baby on the way, and it wasn’t a fun one. Throughout the entire process we learned a lot, and grew closer as a family. We learned we had to stay strong and fight daily, not only for our child, but for our family. We knew if we could make it through this, we could make it through anything.

During times of trial and tribulation, children and families need a strong support system. We are thankful that numerous local organizations, as well as hospital staff and physicians, helped us to get through one of the toughest fights of our lives. From Dr. Oluyinka O. Olutoye, our amazing surgeon who removed the tumor from Isaiah’s lungs; to our extremely knowledgeable oncologist, Dr. Heidi Russell, who kept us well informed and our child a priority; to our supportive social worker, Arlene Brown, who allowed us to vent and helped us maneuver through life at the hospital; to every nurse and staff member who cared for our son and supported our entire family during his battle… we are thankful for them all. We know without a strong team supporting us through each step of the way, our journey would have been much more difficult.

We are grateful for those who commit their lives daily to using their God-given gifts and talents to support and care for others and because of that, we do our best to do the same as a family.

From the beginning our mission has been, and will always be, to ensure that our son’s battle with cancer was not in vain. In an effort to prevent that from being the case, we vowed to help other children and families in need, as God would direct us. With that came KidsRStrong2 (KRS2). KRS2 was founded in an effort to support children with life-threatening illnesses and families, in the areas of special programs, scholarships for survivors and research for rare tumors. We are excited to work with Texas Children’s to provide support in an array of needed areas, including striving to raise much-needed funds for research.

This is just one way we are not only able to give back, but teach our children the importance of paying it forward in hopes of positively impacting the lives of others, just as our lives were impacted.

Tomika Gamble, mother of patient