Lane is a country boy at heart. At four years old, he loves doing chores around the farm. He feeds animals, fills water troughs, helps with manual labor, and rides on his dad’s tractor to help feed the cows – he insists on helping. The moment he hears the tractor start up, he’s out the door with his boots on. He is one of few four-year-olds who will carry logs up from the pasture with a beaming smile of satisfaction on his face. His parents, Ashley and Forrest, say he is an amazing little ranch hand.
“Lane is a typical boy and loves spending time outside,” Ashley said. “He enjoys feeding the horses – but the pigs, not so much. When he’s not busy on the farm, he loves playing with his three sisters.”
Lane was a healthy and active toddler until early 2022, when he started complaining about shoulder pain that began just a few days after falling off the couch. Ashley took Lane to their pediatrician, who ordered x-rays of his shoulder. The doctor reviewed the images, but didn’t see anything of concern. Three weeks later, Lane had another episode of shoulder pain, this time accompanied by swelling, after going down a waterslide at his sister’s birthday party.
“I immediately noticed a big, bulging bump coming from the same spot Lane had been complaining about previously,” Ashley said. “That’s when I took Lane to the emergency room, where we met with a second doctor. After another x-ray, we were told Lane had a collarbone fracture and we were sent home.”
Lane must have fractured the bone initially when he fell off the couch, and it was reinjured after the waterslide incident. A friend encouraged Ashley to get a second opinion, so she requested a pediatric orthopedic specialist. Their pediatrician referred Ashley to Dr. Elizabeth Magnabosco, section chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at CHRISTUS Children’s.
Dr. Magnabosco immediately ordered new x-rays. The images showed new bone formation, but as she reviewed the images closely, she noticed this was not a typical healing fracture. There was a dark spot, known as lucency, in the middle of the new bone and the new bone was forming in layers, which was also not typical for an uncomplicated fracture. Dr. Magnabosco suspected this was more than just a collarbone fracture. She felt there was something growing inside the bone that weakened the bone and made it much easier to fracture. She proceeded to send Lane for additional tests, resulting in a diagnosis that neither Ashley, nor her husband, Forrest, were prepared to hear – Lane had leukemia.
“I remember the exact day when I got the call,” said Ashley. “I was at a dental appointment when the doctor told me about Lane’s diagnosis. I walked across the street to a park and just cried. I was devastated as I tried to process everything. It was very tough.”
“I believe Lane was diagnosed early because Ashley followed her gut and brought him to a pediatric orthopedic specialist,” said Dr. Magnabosco. “Both health care facilities he went to initially were adult-oriented. Often times, kids can have very small fractures that are hard to see on an x-ray, especially in this area, which has many overlying bones. After more than 20 years of treating children, I understand how much force and what type of activities result in different types of fractures. Lane’s story did not fit the picture. That fact, along with my personal reading of the x-rays, led to evaluations that resulted in a very early diagnosis of Leukemia. Lane was referred to my colleague, Dr. Adam Wolfe, a pediatric hematology/oncology specialist at CHRISTUS Children’s, who took over his care.”
Lane had Acute B Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), the most common type of bone marrow cancer in children. ALL causes bone marrow (spongy tissue inside bones) to make too many immature white blood cells (lymphoblasts). These abnormal cells crowd out healthy red and white blood cells and platelets in the blood and bone marrow, making it difficult for the body to fight infection and diseases. ALL can spread quickly to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening.
“The primary treatment for ALL is chemotherapy,” said Dr. Wolfe, who is also an associate professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at Baylor College of Medicine. “Chemo medications are used to destroy as many cancer cells as possible to induce remission. For patients with leukemia, we administer different combinations of chemo medicines every one to two months.”
Lane began chemotherapy on June 1, 2022, one day after his diagnosis. He spent his first week in the hospital, followed by weekly visits to the hospital for chemo that was administered through his port or by spinal tap. The first seven-and-a-half months of Lane’s treatment consisted of rotating cycles of different intense chemo agents. The goal was to catch any escape clones of the leukemia that might be less responsive to one strategy, with the hopes that the next strategy (next chemo agent) would be more effective.
Lane took steroids in pill form at home for the first 28 days of treatment while undergoing chemo. During his second month of treatment, Lane took an oral liquid chemo medicine for 28 days at home, while going to the hospital to receive his weekly chemo treatments – all of which was hard on Lane. The family was told Lane’s treatment protocol would take two-and-a-half years to complete. After chemotherapy, he would enter a maintenance phase for approximately 24 months.
“While I felt helpless and disconnected to reality, I was glad that we saw Dr. Magnabosco when we did. Otherwise, my son’s cancer could have been detected at a much later stage,” said Ashley. “The first month of treatment was hard, because Lane wasn’t himself. He went from being very active to just sitting there, doing nothing. The steroids were very challenging, because they caused aggressive outbursts, which was also very unlike Lane. He was not a happy camper, but he plowed through his treatments like a champ.”
Lane reached remission after the first phase of chemotherapy and started his maintenance phase in January 2023. The maintenance phase allows the immune system to recover, while still targeting any leukemia cells that might still be there, and it also gives his immune system a chance to reject any bits of leukemia that try to return. He continues to take chemo medications at home daily. Lane visits the hospital once per month to get his port access, and does one hospital treatment every third month, which involves a spinal tap.
“Lane completed one year of treatment on June 1, 2023. We hope that since he’s responding so well to treatment, we will stay on track for his scheduled end-of-treatment date in August 2024,” Ashley added.
Lane has overcome so much during his first year of treatment, from intense chemotherapy to weight loss, weight gain, and hair loss. In addition to his Leukemia fight, he faced serious colds three different times during his journey, which involved multiple visits to the emergency department.
“Lane had to be admitted into the hospital each time he was ill, but we stayed for about a week in November 2022 for an intense cold and fever. He received several blood infusions and platelets during that week because his body was just not responding. We’ve had some tough times, but considering how much he has overcome, he’s thriving, and his oral meds have become part of our routine so they’re easier for him to take now. We’ve been so blessed to have such a huge support system and phenomenal medical teams to help us along the way.”
Lane’s family is grateful for the many people who have cheered their little guy on. While Lane’s two-year journey is still ongoing, the family knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“We would not have gotten through this tough time without the amazing and selfless support from our family and friends, who have held fundraisers to help us with our medical expenses, and to the wonderful team of doctors, nurses, child life specialists, and social workers, at CHRISTUS Children’s, who have taken exceptional care of Lane. They are like family to us. Everyone has been so caring and understanding. The toys, playrooms, activities, and events hosted by Child Life, made a huge difference in our stay at the hospital. It made it much more bearable. Child Life even worked with my oldest daughter to explain what her little brother was going through. The pediatric team also had a lot more patience working with Lane compared to the adult physicians we saw at the beginning of our journey. They understood and knew how to handle Lane’s emotional needs, especially when he was scared and he didn’t know what was going on around him. We are blessed to have a team, who I know, will be with us for the long haul.”