Local News

Fayetteville brothers fight cancer

Posted February 7, 2011 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2011 6:18 p.m. EST

— Kathleen Henry's family has been touched by cancer twice. 

The painful journey began two years ago just after her son, Collin, turned 2. 

“He had no energy and then he started getting nose bleeds,” Henry said about her son, Collin. "Then, he started having blood on his lip all the time.”

The Fayetteville mother took him to the hospital and doctors conducted tests. Henry and Collin were at home when the doctor called. 

"He called me and said, 'I need to drive to your house. I need to talk to you,'" she said. 

At the time, Henry's husband was in Iraq with the Army. 

The doctor confirmed what Henry said she already knew - her son had Leukemia, cancer of the bone marrow. 

The diagnosis is still painful for Henry to think about two years later. 

"When I talk about it now, it just feels like an out-of-body experience," she said. 

Collin's father came home from Iraq, as Collin began chemotherapy. 

"It's been really hard. That's (one) of the hardest parts - inflicting that pain on your child, but you know if (you) don't, they will die," Henry said. 

Visit Collin's CaringBridge page for updates on his condition

After a month of chemotherapy, Collin's cancer went into remission and has remained there. Collin, however, still undergoes monthly chemotherapy. 

Last October, Henry noticed a problem with Collin's older brother, 6-year-old Patrick.

"He wasn't crying," Henry said. "He just said, 'My side hurts.'" 

Henry said she felt a lump on Patrick's right side, just below his ribs. "I touched it and he winced," she said. 

She rushed her son to the doctor. 

"It was another out-of-body experience. There's a mass on his liver," she said. 

Patrick was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that originates in the liver. 

"I just knew, right away, I was like, 'Here we go again. One more time,'" Henry said. 

Patrick's cancer was high-risk, which meant he had a 20 percent chance to live, she said. The illness is so rare that it only accounts for about 2 percent of childhood cancers. 

"What now? What else can be thrown at you?" Henry said. 

Soon, Henry began taking Patrick for treatment at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital at UNC, the same place his younger brother was treated. 

The pain of having an IV inserted into his chest for chemotherapy can be unbearable for mother and child. Henry has to restrain Patrick so doctors can get the IV into place. There are tears. 

The treatments have also made Patrick sick. Henry said it has been hard seeing him throw up sometimes 10 times in a day. 

Visit Patrick's CaringBridge page for updates on his condition

Henry's oldest child, Lacey, 9, is healthy. 

North Carolina Cancer Hospital at UNC pediatric oncologist Dr. Stuart Gold said the family's battle with cancer is very rare.

"It's incredibly rare to have two kids with cancer in the same family. There are some types of cancer that do run in the family, but not in these particular areas," he said. 

There is a history of cancer in both parents' families, but geneticists have not been able to definitively cite that as a cause with either child.

Gold said their prognosis is good, and most children beat cancer. 

"We cure about 80 percent of children these days, which I think most people don't realize. So, I'm very certain about both of these children. I think they have a very bright future," he said. 

Henry said she thinks God wants her family to do "something big with childhood cancer." 

Henry said she plans to shave her head next month for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which raises money to fund research into cures for childhood cancers.