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Duke Children's Patient Story: Hope on the horizon

A two-year-old with three brothers complains of a sore leg--not so uncommon. A diagnosis of neuroblastoma, however, shakes a family to its core.

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Duke Children's patient Drake
Duke Medicine
Go Ask Mom editor's note: Mix 101.5's 17th annual Radiothon for Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center runs Tuesday through Thursday. Proceeds go to support the work and research at Duke Children's, a place where so many sick children find the help they need. This week, Go Ask Mom is sharing the stories of some amazing kids who have found treatment there. I hope you'll read their stories and, if you are able, support the Radiothon. Today, we'll share Drake's story.

Drake, 2, limped through his living room, unable to bend down to pick up objects from the floor. His local pediatricians performed blood tests but attributed his pain to inflammation from a recent bout of bronchitis.

Dana, Drake's mom, persisted. "He was getting worse and worse," she says. "We went to an orthopedist. We went back to the pediatrician for more blood work."

One by one, frightening diseases were checked off the list — leukemia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lupus. Puzzled, Drake's pediatrician called Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center.

An MRI at Duke Children's presented the family with a word they had never heard before — neuroblastoma. Drake had a tumor the size of a golf ball on his adrenal gland and evidence of the cancer throughout his body, even his bone marrow.

Pediatric surgeon Dr. Henry Rice removed the tumor. Drake endured six rounds of chemotherapy and numerous hospitalizations. Still the cancer lingered in his bone marrow.

One more round of chemotherapy followed to ready Drake's young body for a bone marrow transplant. Drake's advanced neuroblastoma qualified him for a clinical trial for antibody treatment in New York.

Through it all, Drake exhibited what so many of Duke Children's patients display — a special kind of determination to beat his disease. "No matter how bad he felt, he would bounce back ready to take on the world," said Dana.

Today most childhood cancers have a greater than 75 percent cure rate. Neuroblastoma, however, continues to cut short too many young lives, taking with it the hopes and dreams of a family.

All too often, a patient is declared to be in remission only to have neuroblastoma tumors return. Sadly, nearly two-thirds of patients succumb to the disease.

Duke Children's is working to reverse the devastation of neuroblastoma. A number of faculty have particular interest and expertise in treating neuroblastoma.

Drake, now almost five, is still undergoing treatment at Duke Children's and in New York. For his family, this concerted effort to better understand and battle neuroblastoma pro­vides hope that a cure is on the horizon for Drake and the many children battling this cancer.

Go to Duke Children's website for more about what the hospital and health center offers. Check in on the Radiothon's Facebook page. And click here if you'd like to pledge your support for Duke Children's.

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