2 Years Old at Diagnosis
Have you ever met a child so full of life and energy that the only time he stops is to flash you a big, bright smile? This describes Duncan Mitcheltree to a tee. CureSearch for Children’s Cancer had the pleasure of meeting him at the Lehigh Valley Hospital – Pediatric Cancer Unit recently, where he starred in our latest photo shoot. Let’s just say we got a lot of action shots from Duncan!
The Unit filled with excitement as AnnMarie Steber, RN, CPON announced “the Mitcheltrees are here!” In walked Eric and Andrea Mitcheltree with their 5-month old daughter Riley, 4-year old son Duncan, and 6-year old daughter Reagan. Reagan and Duncan immediately gave hugs and huge smiles to the staff and families they have grown to love. “The only good thing about cancer is the new relationships you develop. It is a family that you never want to be a part of – until you are,” explains Eric.
Just two years ago, on December 17, 2009, then 2 1/2-year-old Duncan was diagnosed with Wilms tumor-Stage III after experiencing multiple fevers and lethargy. A CT scan revealed a large mass growing on his kidney, which would lead to the removal of his right kidney and appendix. Duncan then underwent 6 sessions of radiation and 6 months of chemotherapy. Wilms tumor affects about 500 children in the United States each year and about 75% of them are under 5 years old.
Duncan finished his treatment on the 15th of June, 2010 and just six months later, he and his family signed up to participate in the CureSearch Walk – Lehigh Valley. Eric felt so strongly about educating people about the differences between adult and children’s cancer that he agreed to use his leadership skills to chair the Walk.
On October 8, 2011 the inaugural CureSearch Walk – Lehigh Valley raised $61,000 and Team Duncan was the #1 fundraising team, bringing in more than $13,000.
Participating on the Walk committee, Eric knew he was bound to meet countless new people. While the Mitcheltrees were thankful for all of the support from their parents, family, friends, and church members who helped in very special ways, what they found by meeting others from the children’s cancer community was a group of people who truly understood exactly what they were going through. This brought comfort they never expected.
The people Eric and Andrea met understand the fear and anxiety they face every time they wait for Duncan’s lab results to come back. They understand the awful thoughts that race through their mind every time their child hiccups, burps, or coughs. “Is his cancer back? Is it a secondary cancer from treatment?” Like Eric and Andrea, the people they met were also caught by such surprise when they first found out that their child had cancer that now, nothing is implausible to them.
Duncan is doing well and continues to be as active as ever, and Eric and Andrea continue to fight to spread the word about children’s cancer.