“He’s my hero! Never once has he said, ‘I give up;’ he’s always trying and he doesn’t complain. He’s so positive. He has empathy for people. Like, if someone is crying, he will go up and ask them what’s wrong or give them a teddy bear or something out of his own personal toy collection.’ Here you go!’ He’s always been like that.”
Charlotte, a caring mother with a contagious smile, is speaking of her 11-1/2 year old son. She’s extremely proud of his positive nature and ability to turn challenging situations into acceptable experiences. Coincidentally named Lance, he, like Lance Armstrong, was treated for brain cancer in the year of 1996. Charlotte’s Lance, however, was 10 months old at the time of diagnosis. Born with what doctors thought was hydrocephalus turned out to be a cancerous brain tumor. The young parents of this pudgy, beautiful baby boy were instantly faced with challenges they couldn’t have imagined. They had limited, if any, knowledge about cancer and what lay ahead of them. Charlotte often refers to that time of their lives as “freaky;” freaky because they entered an unknowing, unexpected world of continual hospital visits, confusing medical terminology, and sudden feelings of fear and apprehension.
Hospitals, doctor visits, and treatments have become a way of life for Lance. He’s involved with a pediatrician, ophthalmologist, audiologist, oncologist, neurologist, and endocrinologist. He spent his first Christmas at the hospital undergoing 6 hours of surgery, underwent high dose chemotherapy at 14 months and radiation at 16 months. At 18 months, the family heard the word “remission,” and they celebrated! Now, a 10-year cancer survivor, Lance is a typical 11 year old boy. He does not like girls, hates the color pink and loves to ride his quad. His overall development has been a bit slower as a result of all the early treatments, but in recent years he seems to be catching up. He knows himself as a “cancer kid,” although he was too young to remember chemo and radiation. The cancer diagnosis follows him from year to year, and he has become an expert on advising the nurses and doctors as to what needs to be done, where and when. “He’s a crack-up,” says Charlotte, “When he gets to the hospital, he pulls up his sleeves, takes his own temperature and tells them to use this, this and this… which are the tubes that need to be drawn.”
For Lance and his family, one of the most significant developments during their cancer journey has been their intense relationship with Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Association and other families with children with cancer. Charlotte cannot say enough about the support that has been provided to all family members. The other moms at the hospital going through the same experiences were of great comfort to her. She remembers the days when Jacob’s Heart was in its infancy and didn’t even have an office. She had heard about a support group and joined three other moms at Fresh Choice. “It was great. I could talk to people and I can tell them what I was going through and they could tell me. And it gets better…because I was still freaking out. And they’ve been there ever since.” She even calls Jacob’s Heart today when she needs advise on handling issues that might affect Lance. Lance is still involved with Art from the Heart and Jacob’s Heart events at the new Watsonville site, which the family loves since its only moments away from their home.
There is such sincere and passionate love reflected in Charlotte’s eyes and smile when she talks about Lance. But that’s not all that is evident. Charlotte has a gold ribbon tattooed on her ankle that has Lance’s name, birth date and remission date on it. Lance, indeed, is her hero!