Posted: November 18, 2014
4.5 Months Old at Diagnosis
Bradley Nees is just a baby, but when his treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was underway he became the INCREDIBLE HULK.
When Bradley was just 4 months old, Jaclyn Nees noticed blood in her son’s stool. She was not terribly concerned, but made sure to mention the blood when she took Bradley to his 4-month check-up. The doctor suggested that Jaclyn, who was breastfeeding Bradley, cut dairy from her diet. He thought that perhaps it was dairy products that were causing some digestive problems for Bradley. But Bradley was noticeably uncomfortable the week following his visit to the pediatrician, despite the absence of dairy in his mother’s diet. Jaclyn took Bradley back to the doctor.
Blood tests revealed cancer. At diagnosis, Bradley’s blood was almost completely devoid of healthy red and white blood cells, yet miraculously he showed no signs of infection and had no fever. At just 4.5 months, Bradley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Bradley’s cancerous white cell count was so high that he was scheduled to fly by med-evac helicopter from the Nees’ local hospital in Corpus Christi to Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital. However, a dangerous storm grounded the helicopter, and Bradley instead had to be evacuated to Houston by ambulance. On his way, Bradley’s potassium levels became severely elevated, indicating that he could have been bleeding internally (a very real threat for leukemia patients with few healthy blood cells). Bradley’s fragile condition demanded that he get a transfusion as soon as possible, so the ambulance was turned back to Corpus Christi where the medical team began manually administered transfusions immediately.
With Bradley’s donor blood sustaining him, the initial phase of treatment, induction, could begin. Bradley’s protocol involved aggressive chemotherapy, including high doses of methotrexate and steroids. It was the steroids that brought out the INCREDIBLE HULK. One of the common side effects of steroids is irritability. Bradley was no exception – on steroids, he was one angry baby. He would fuss, cry, and wave his fists furiously. Bradley’s parents couldn’t help but settle on the nickname.
After a month in the hospital, five-and-a-half month old Bradley got to go home. It was at about this time that some of the side effects of the steroids and chemotherapy were starting to wear off. At 5-weeks post the start of therapy, Bradley smiled his first smile. Shortly after that he would smile and laugh as soon as the Nees’ “Hulk Smash” routine began. The routine involved a lot of tickling, laughing and happy (rather than angry) fist waving.
The Nees had Bradley at home for a couple of weeks as they waited for his blood counts to improve enough for him to withstand the second cycle of chemotherapy. During this time, Bradley’s family watched his happy personality emerge. Bradley and his family were grateful for the short respite at home – for the time to put on some weight and throw a few smiles around, Hulk-style.
Bradley was a star all through phase two, despite a painful episode with a malfunctioning catheter. He and his family spent two more weeks in the hospital, were home for a day, then back in for another week. A five day break from the hospital after round two wasn’t entirely a break – the Nees had to administer a neupogen shot every night. On one of those nights Bradley woke up with a fever which earned him a trip to the ER and more donor blood and platelets. His fever continued for three days, but Bradley was allowed to go home on the fifth day, just in time for Halloween. As this story makes its way to CureSearch’s Meet the Superheroes page, the Nees are still home and waiting for round three – re-induction. He’ll start steroids again, and the Hulk will be back, but now he’s a 7-month-old who loves peas!
The Nees are a strong family that has been fortified by an outpouring of support from many sources. Bradley’s dad Kevin is in the Coast Guard and the Guard has made it possible for him to be off at important times during Bradley’s treatment. Bradley’s grandmother spearheaded a blood drive in honor of Bradley at the school where she works, and Jackie and Kevin were inspired by their son to start a CureSearch fundraising page with all donations being targeted for children’s cancer research. While the blood donated at the school blood drive and the $8,000 plus dollars donated to research will likely not help Bradley today, the donations will help other children in the future.
Bradley “The Incredible Hulk” Nees Update: Age 2 – 20 Months Since Diagnosis
Bradley continues to superhero smash his way through Acute Lymphatic Leukemia (ALL). There have been battles to fight, but Bradley’s own strength combined with the love, support, and superhero skills of his of his family, friends, and medical teams have brought Bradley to his second birthday on his feet!
Here is what’s happened in Bradley’s villain (cancer) and hero filled world in the last 18 months. As he approached his 1st birthday in March 2015, though he had been tolerating another round of high-dose chemotherapy well, Bradley was hospitalized for two weeks with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – a dangerous infection caused by a type of bacteria that’s become resistant to many antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections). Bradley battled it like a boss. In July 2015, our young superhero was transferred to MD Anderson Children’s Hospital in Houston to address some developmental concerns. At 15-months-old he was still not putting weight on his legs or crawling. The team at MD Anderson started Bradley on medication to treat peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves that are outside your brain and spinal cord – symptoms can include pain and numbness in hands and feet and muscle weakness). In people with cancer, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, or the cancer itself can be the cause of nerve damage. Bradley did slowly start crawling (army style) in response to the medicine.
Most of that army-crawling summer was spent at MD Anderson due to the high-dose chemo and two infections that got a toehold when his blood counts were down. Houston is 3.5-4 hours from the Nees’ home so the summer hospitalization was more difficult for the family than when Bradley was treated at his local hospital just ten minutes away. When he entered maintenance at the end of September 2015 Bradley’s doctors were able to increase his neuropathy-fighting medicine and he started crawling on his hands and knees. In November, the team added pain medication and he started pulling up to his feet. A few months later Bradley’s pain medication was switched and he started eating. Bradley’s family did not know that his neuropathy pain included jaw pain. They just thought he was a picky eater! The Hulk took his first few steps not long after. The Nees Family looks forward to Bradley walking around on his own in honor of his second birthday in March 2016.
Bradley has been fighting Leukemia for almost all of his two years, but he fights on just like The Hulk himself would.
Bradley Nees Update: October 2016
Bradley is doing well. He has been off treatment since August 12, 2016, but he is still receiving monthly antibiotic infusions. He also gets medicine daily for neuropathy pain, which he still experiences. He goes to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy every week. He is also terrified of other kids his size so he goes to the Little Gym and playgrounds to socialize.
Want more stories like this?
Get emails that matter, when it matters.