Kyle Lorenz, 18, is looking forward to an important milestone in his life when he graduates this spring from Stanley High School.
But it’s not the only milestone he’ll be celebrating. This month, he is also commemorating being two years cancer free.
Kyle was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in April of 2011. Then age 15, he had been having some chest discomfort and a little shortness of breath. He and his family attributed it to “growing pains” of about six inches in one year. But when he nearly passed out at a friend’s house, one of his sisters took him to Ministry Our Lady of Victory (MOLV) Hospital in Stanley.
“They did an X-ray and blood tests, and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance heading to Marshfield,” Kyle said.
“They told me that they found a mass in his chest,” said Kyle’s mother Deb. “We arrived in the Emergency Room (at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital) in Marshfield, and were met right away with a team of experts. They were awesome. They immediately took charge. Within three hours they were telling us when they would do the biopsy and what treatment they recommended.”
Her first reaction, Deb remembered, was anger. “I was just mad. I didn’t want to cry because he was being so strong about it,” she said. “He told me, ‘I’m not scared mom, I’m going to beat this thing.’ I wasn’t on the bandwagon until I saw how positive my boy was. And then we all got on board and kept a positive attitude.”
Kyle received chemotherapy treatments for the next six months to shrink the tumor. Then came surgery to remove the tumor, as well as three ribs and part of his lower lung. Another six months of bi-weekly chemotherapy followed. The whole time, Kyle was in and out of the pediatric unit at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
“The surgery removed most of the mass, but there may have been microscopic cancer cells left, so we did another round of chemotherapy to make to make sure to kill every last one,” said Michael McManus, MD, Marshfield Clinic pediatric oncologist on staff at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “Ewing’s Sarcoma is a very rare form of cancer, in adults as well as children. Fortunately there are effective treatments for it.”
“Everyone up on the peds unit was awesome,” Kyle said. “There were so many people who helped me out—the nurses, child life specialists, and staff. And Dr. McManus always made me smile. I found out we even share the same birthday. And I met other kids who were going through cancer treatment too.”
The recovery was not without a few hiccups however. At one point after his surgery, Kyle developed sepsis in one of his ports in his chest. He needed to be airlifted from Stanley back to Marshfield, for treatment, and another stay in the hospital.
Meanwhile, the folks in Stanley and MOLV (where Deb has worked for seven years) did their part. They coordinated benefits and formed a prayer team. His teachers made sure he kept up with his classes, and the principal even personally delivered homework to his hospital room.
“It also was nice to be able to have his daily blood work to determine his counts done here at the hospital in Stanley,” Deb said. “That way he could continue to attend school during his weeks at home.”
Now, Kyle, who will attend North Central Technical College next fall, gets regular checkups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. Is he cured? According to Dr. McManus, that’s a hard question to answer.
“If a patient goes one year cancer free, that’s good. In two years, that’s great,” he said. “Each year the odds improve. After five years, the odds are 99.9 percent that it won’t come back. Each type of cancer is different. But Kyle has always had a great attitude. That counts for a lot.”