3 Years Old at Diagnosis
In the late fall of 1990, 3-year-old Tony Quinn and his idolized older brother Jared were wrestling when Tony bumped his left ankle on a coffee table. The bump and bruise seemed a typical side effect of roughhousing, but the next day when Tony’s mom Debbie was helping him put on his shoe, he winced when she touched his ankle. Debbie made an appointment with their pediatrician for the next day. The morning before his appointment, Tony fell while walking across the lawn, and he could no longer support his weight on his left leg. An x-ray revealed that his leg was broken, and he had a tumor above his left ankle. Tony’s pediatrician sent the family to nearby Beaumont Bone and Joint for further evaluation. A biopsy produced cells unusual enough to warrant sending the Quinns to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, 2 hours away.
Once at M.D. Anderson the family checked in to the Ronald McDonald House, and things moved quickly. Tony was just three years old and had to put up with a week’s worth of needle sticks and other tests. Tony was holding up well, but no matter how hard Debbie tried to stay as courageous and stoic as her son, tears were running down her cheeks. While having his blood drawn he saw the tears and chose a flower ring from the treasure box: “Here Mommy, for you.” Then he gave her a kiss.
Tony was not afraid. He was too young to understand the gravity of his osteosarcoma diagnosis. After his first week of tests he had a port surgically implanted for the delivery of chemotherapy drugs. His parents were coping with the high probability Tony would need a below-the knee amputation.
During the aggressive chemotherapy treatments, Tony had lost a lot of weight and his kidneys were faltering. The tumor had, as planned, shrunk in response to the drugs and his medical team recommended going ahead with the amputation and ending chemo early to limit additional damage to Tony’s vital organs and systems. At just 4 years old, his left leg was amputated at the bottom of his calf muscle.
More than another year of chemotherapy followed. Despite efforts to minimize damage from treatments, young Tony did suffer some cognitive issues, hearing loss, heart problems, and kidney problems as a result of the chemotherapy. The family was very grateful for the professionals M.D. Anderson sent to his schools to help them address Tony’s specific needs. Over the course of his growing years, Tony underwent several surgeries and was fitted with a new prosthesis almost every year, got hearing aids, and was put on medication for both his heart and kidneys. It was a lot to endure, but he was, and is, very much alive and cancer free.
Today, at 28, Tony is much more comfortable with his health and his prosthesis. What began as a painful 5K in San Antonio grew in a short time to competing in the Paralympics. Tony has graduated to special prostheses for running and sprinting and has qualified for more running events every year.
The Quinn family has been inspired by their experiences with childhood cancer. Debbie Quinn became a nurse, and while Tony has a degree and career in chemical manufacturing, he is intrigued by the idea of pursuing a career in the manufacturing of prostheses. They have actively supported children’s cancer research for years.
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