11 year old cancer survivor raises money for Relay for Life
Every other year, Spencer Lowe has a doctor visit and gets blood drawn, which he finds maddening.
Relay for Life activities• Opening ceremonies, tonight at 7 — presentation of colors, welcome, national anthem, invocation, survivor roll call and first lap survivors led by kids’ walk• Luminary ceremony, 8:45 p.m. — survivor speaker• Closing ceremonies, Saturday 6:30 a.m. — final lap, closing message
Relay for Life activities
But the 11-year-old is a long way from regular CT scans and chemotherapy. He was diagnosed at 5 months old with hepatoblastoma, a liver cancer that occurs in infants and children.
Now the Morgan Elementary School fifth-grader raises money for Relay for Life of Rowan County. He’ll walk as a survivor in today’s event.
When Spencer was just a baby, his parents, Amy and James, found a bulge on his abdomen while changing his diaper. The couple took their son to a doctor for a visit that would change their lives.
When the doctors examined Spencer, they were alarmed, but said very little, Amy recalled.
The couple were sent immediately to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where they were rushed through the emergency room and to another doctor.
“When the doctor came in, I didn’t hear anything he said. I saw his name tag, it said oncology,” Amy said.
The doctor performed a liver biopsy and blood tests confirmed his suspicions. The infant was diagnosed with the most common malignant liver tumor in early childhood.
The bulge the Lowes found was a tumor the size of a baseball. The tumor was too large to remove, doctors said.
Spencer would need to several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
Spencer had been born prematurely, and now he would need three to four months of chemotherapy. When he was born, Amy said Spencer weighed only 2 pounds.
The parents dealt with blood transfusions and shots to boost their infant son’s immune system. Spencer had to be sedated so he wouldn’t move during his weekly CT scans. Spencer became so immune to the sedation that doctors had to up the dosage. The dosage was so high, it was enough to put an adult to sleep, Amy said.
The tumor eventually shrunk enough so doctors could perform surgery.
“He was such a trouper. He hardly ever cried,” Amy said.
Spencer, who is admittedly shy, said he vaguely remembers visiting the doctors as a toddler.
Chemotherapy robbed Spencer of some hearing, so he wears a hearing aid. His teachers also use FM Systems with a microphone during class so he can hear them in class.
Spencer raises money for the event by asking family and friends to donate to the cause. This year, the family recycled cans.
They estimate they have recycled about 80 pounds of soda cans. Spencer has spent hours stepping on cans before the family has them recycled.
Relay for Life organizers crown a Mr. Relay and Miss Relay for those who raise the most money among children. Spencer has won the title the past four years.
Amy said this year’s can collection was a way the family came up with to get Spencer involved.
Spencer said he hopes he can teach others about beating cancer through his experience. If Spencer starts concentrating too much on trying to raise the most money, Amy reminds him of the real reason behind why he is raising it.
She said participating each year is a way for the family to heal from all they endured when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“This helps. He doesn’t want other children to have to go through this,” she said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.