Elijah Leung was 6 months old when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, the most common type of tumor to affect children younger than 1. His father, Peter, talks about Elijah's diagnosis and treatment at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
How did you learn about Elijah's condition?
We learned about Elijah's condition at his six-month wellness check-up. His pediatrician found a mass under his ribcage so we went and did an ultrasound. They said, "He has a mass on his adrenal gland and you guys need to go to UCSF right away." We took him to the hospital that day.
I wasn't at the doctor's visit, but my wife called and said, "You need to come meet me at the hospital, they found a mass on Elijah's adrenal gland." My heart just fell to my stomach. It was the worst feeling of my life. All these thoughts were running through our minds – this can't be happening to us, this kid's healthy. There were no symptoms of anything. It was scary, very scary.
Did they find out more at UCSF?
They didn't find more, but they said that treatment needed to start immediately.
Tell me about your relationship with the doctors.
Our relationship was really good. Our doctors there were Dr. Chang and Dr. Braun. We felt really comfortable with them, they were very caring and gave us the best advice for his treatment.
Everybody at UCSF has made us feel really comfortable, not only the doctors but the rest of the staff. Whatever we needed, the nurses were there for us. The counselors were there to help us. Even the people who came in to clean the floors in the morning, they were always smiling and just made us feel at home. That was really nice.
How did you decide for sure to go with UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital?
We chose it because our pediatrician assured us that it was one of the best places in the world for treatment of Elijah's type of cancer.
When our pediatrician first said we needed to go to UCSF, I questioned her. I asked was that the best place to take our son for this treatment and she said, "Yes, they are. They're top-notch in the Bay Area." I told her I'd take him to China if it's the best place, but she reassured us. She said, "UCSF is great. Don't worry. You'll be in good hands."
Talk about Elijah's treatment.
He went through surgery and chemotherapy. Just dealing with that each time -- watching his chemo, looking at his counts and making sure that he doesn't have a fever… We've had to make numerous trips to the ER and come back to UCSF for treating infections. Those were scary times.
Do you feel like you're in the clear yet?
I don't think we're in the clear yet. There's a five-year period where they want to keep an eye on Elijah. We're almost to two years now, but it's always in the back of your mind that, hey, something could happen. But at the end of his chemotherapy his test results came back clean and the doctors are very optimistic. We kind of live life like he's cured. We feel blessed, really blessed.
Interviewed April 2012
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