What do you see when you picture an eight-month-old baby?
At eight months, our son Ty loved to dance and listen to music. He was fascinated by wheels; he would stare down at the wheels on a stroller instead of enjoying the scenery during walks. Ty gave the BEST hugs. Ty also had a large tumor growing on his lung. The mass grew to be so big that he couldn’t breathe on his own and it blocked a major artery.
For a month we lived at the hospital while doctors tried to diagnose Ty. He went through multiple surgeries and procedures, including a blood transfusion, heart surgery, chest surgery, and biopsies of his bone marrow, his spine, and the mass. We were told after the mass biopsy that the tissue looked like juvenile xanthogranuloma (JXG), but that JXG only appears on the skin, not on internal organs, so they didn't know what he had. For two weeks Ty needed to be kept sedated and on a breathing machine. Imagine not being able to hold your baby for two weeks.
On November 29, 2013, the day after Ty's first Thanksgiving, the doctors told us that they had waited as long as they possibly could and they had to treat Ty with something even though they risked making him worse. Later that day, Ty was diagnosed with mediastinal JXG. Yes, the same thing we were originally told didn't grow on internal organs. Ty began chemotherapy. After 12 weeks of weekly chemotherapy and steroids, the mass shrank to almost nothing. Ty continued chemo for another year and celebrated his last chemo on November 19, 2014. So far, the JXG remains stable.
These days, Ty still loves dancing and music. He also loves Star Wars, sea animals, and pretending to be superheroes and Kakamora, the coconut pirates from Moana.
We have found only one reference that states a statistic for systemic JXG. The statistic is one in 10 million. That means only 32 people in the United States are diagnosed. We were lucky. For this reason, spreading awareness is so important to us. If we can save one life or can help one family get their diagnosis before being told "we have waited as long as we possibly can," it will be worth everything. Finding a cure is our ultimate goal.