December 11, 2018

Meet Sam

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Sam has cancer. The outgoing and energetic 3-year-old loves sports and climbing. “I’m always yelling, ‘Don’t climb on that!’” jokes his mother, Lauren.

But then, he’ll get a little cranky from the steroids or tired from treatment, a cruel reminder of Sam’s diagnosis of High Risk Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Sam is considered high-risk because, cancer cells were found in his spinal fluid.

Sam was sick over Christmas in 2017, and when he had not bounced back by January, Lauren and her husband Don began to worry. “We thought he was anemic. He was very pale, and had no appetite.” After blood work at an urgent care facility identified “blasts” in his blood, Sam was admitted to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“That is when the bottom dropped out,” said Lauren. “We had no chance to process, we just had to dive right in (to treatment).”

Don and Lauren, who was pregnant at the time, relied on family to take care of Sam’s 6-year-old brother Joel.

Sam is still in treatment and responding well. A big challenge occurred when, in the midst of his cancer treatment, Sam was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. Lauren is grateful for the endocrinology team at Hackensack University Medical Center’s Molly Center for Children. This is a multi-disciplinary program that help families learn to treat and manage their child’s diabetes.

Lauren admits that this has been a very complicated journey, as the family is learning to manage both Sam’s cancer treatment and his blood sugar. He recently received an insulin pump, and they are getting used to Sam’s new protocols.

The family welcomed baby Levi into the family on July 10. “Sam loves his brothers. 

He loves to play with his big brother, and is wonderful at helping with the baby.”

The family saved Levi’s cord blood, something they had not thought about before. “Hopefully, we won’t need it,” stated Lauren.

I’m continually amazed by what he can manage and how brave he is.

— Lauren, Sam’s mom

In reflecting, Lauren realizes the importance for Tackle Kids Cancer and research. “No parent wants to hear that diagnosis. We are thankful that there has been so much research for the treatment of leukemia over the years. We have met several families with children whose cancers need more research.”

Lauren continued, “So little research money and funding is given to childhood cancer. We need more than 4%. I would love to see other types of cancers to have the same level of treatment as ALL but without funding we can’t realize this dream. We don’t want to see this happen to more people. We are thankful to Tackle Kids Cancer and other organizations that work hard to help people find a way through this.”