Even though Meri Broome only knew a few kids in her lifetime that had been diagnosed with cancer, her world was turned upside down when her son, Ladd, received a diagnosis in January 2016.
Ladd had been a healthy, happy baby, even starting to walk at just 10-1/2 months old. Right after his first birthday, Ladd was in and out of the pediatrician’s office for food allergies and eczema among other problems. Then he started to lose weight.
“He was not the happy Ladd we knew,” says Meri. “He lost two pounds in two months – and the doctors felt it was time to do a further evaluation.”
Ladd was scheduled for outpatient surgery for an upper GI scope and ear tube placement. The procedures went well and his scope didn’t show any cause for his weight loss. However, his blood pressure was up during the procedure. This is unusual with anesthesia, which commonly causes the opposite effect. Afterwards, there was a discussion about whether to admit him or to send him home to follow up with his pediatrician.
In the meantime, his potassium level came back very low, so he had to be admitted for potassium replacement. When he got to the floor, his blood pressure skyrocketed to the 230s over 110s, which caused immediate alarm and a transfer to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for emergent blood pressure control.
Meri and her husband, Ben, daughter Madeline and son, Ladd.
A Fast Diagnosis
Within two hours, a mass was found on Ladd’s kidney, which was immediately suspected to be a Wilms’ tumor – a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Since he was extremely hypertensive (high blood pressure), doctrs had to investigate further with blood work and urine studies to rule out neuroblastoma which would have changed his whole course of treatment.
After getting results from urine studies and better controlling his blood pressure, Ladd had surgery several days later, performed by Lisa Smith, M.D., pediatric surgeon with University Surgery Associates. The tumor hadn’t spread and didn’t rupture during the procedure. Overall it was a great success. The tumor was considered stage 1, meaning wouldn’t need chemotherapy or radiation.
“The whole experience was so overwhelming to me and my husband, Ben,” Meri says. “We’re so thankful that the tumor was caught before Ladd needed to go through further treatment.”
Just before Ladd's surgery to remove his Wilms' tumor.
The Best Cancer Care – Right Here in Chattanooga
In situations like this, every parent must weigh the options and look for the very best surgical care for their child. When Ladd was diagnosed, Meri and Ben had friends, family and acquaintances ask, “Is Erlanger Children’s Hospital where you need to be?” Meri is a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) who works at Erlanger, and she was more than confident of the advanced surgical capabilities Erlanger offers to children needing specialty care. Even though she was in the waiting room instead of the operating room, she knew they made the right decision.
Healthy and Happy Once Again!
Ladd is doing great after his surgery – growing and catching up on his milestones (including walking and talking up a storm!). He’s now 29 pounds, and according to Meri, if you didn’t see his scar you wouldn’t believe what he’s already been through in less than two years.
“We have scans and lab work every three months for the next 2-1/2 years to ensure there’s no tumor regrowth. But as time passes and with each scan, I’m starting to be less afraid,” she explains. “My goal is to help people understand how childhood cancer affects the whole family – just because you don’t know a child with cancer, it’s still very real and very scary for families with children who are diagnosed.”
Raising Awareness about Childhood Cancer
Because of her experience with Ladd and her decision to have him treated at Erlanger, Meri knew she wanted to do something locally to raise money to support childhood cancer research and treatment. She worked with Patti Smith, director of E-Kids Child Development Center, child life specialist Ashley Zani, oncology nurse Stephanie Bratton, and pediatric hematologist-oncologist Dr. Meghann McManus to organize a Hop-a-thon for children who attend E-Kids.
The Broome family - all smiles and wearing their 'Believe' t-shirts!
The kids are collecting pledges or donations for the number of hops they can perform in certain period of time and will enjoy fun activities like face painting, a bouncy house and balloon animals. There’s also a raffle event for parents and a t-shirt fundraiser. All proceeds will benefit Chattanooga Children’s Cancer Center at Erlanger. “I’m hoping for a very successful event, and next year to challenge other daycares and schools to participate,” says Meri. “How awesome would it be to get the whole community involved to make a difference and promote Childhood Cancer Awareness!”
Are you ready to get involved? Click here to make a donation to the Chattanooga Children’s Cancer Center. Type in Ekids, Hopping for a Cure, along with the rest of your information and then submit.
To purchase a ‘Believe’ t-shirt, follow this link to Threads: https://goo.gl/F88maf
The owner of Threads, Mindy Sanders, has also known the fear of a child with cancer. Mindy’s son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 14 months old. She is very passionate about the cause and donates all her profits from her company, including these t-shirts, to childhood cancer charities and to Erlanger Children’s Hospital.