Posted: November 5, 2014
9 Weeks Old at Diagnosis
For most parents, the first few months after welcoming a new baby into the family can be overwhelming. But for Jodi’s family, a cancer diagnosis turned life upside down. Jodi’s newborn, Tate, seemed to feel ill frequently and had vomiting episodes. Friends suggested that Tate had reflux, but Jodi wasn’t sure. By the time Tate was about 9 weeks old, Jodi had begun to be increasingly concerned about his health. Jodi works at a medical imaging center, and when she asked her colleagues for advice, they suggested that she bring Tate in to his pediatrician for some tests.
That week, she brought Tate to his family doctor, where the doctor gave Tate an ultrasound and found what any parent dreaded: a mass on his liver that the doctor suspected was cancer. The next day, Jodi brought Tate to Riley Children’s Hospital, where they drew blood, one of the most important steps toward narrowing down a cancer diagnosis.
By the time Tate had a diagnosis of hepatoblastoma, he had bravely undergone a battery of tests, including an MRI, a biopsy, and the placement of a central line. That same week, he began his initial chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In the span of a week, Tate had gone from being an ordinary baby to being a cancer patient, hooked up to a medley of cancer therapies.
Tate underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy and on November 22nd, he had a liver resection to remove the mass. That year, the family celebrated Tate’s first Thanksgiving at Riley Hospital. Hepatoblastoma occurs most frequently in infants or very young children between the ages of 2 months and 3 years. It is the most common kind of cancer of the liver in children. Tate was only 8 months old when he completed treatment in February of 2012.
In the past 25 years, the prognosis has improved greatly for children with diagnoses of liver cancer. Tate completed his treatment in good spirits and from the outside, he seems like a perfectly normal kid. But the harsh treatments he endured left him facing significant long-term side effects. Tate struggles with neuropathy in his legs, which causes him to trip, and he lost high-frequency hearing so he now wears hearing aids. Tate also faces problems with his core strength. When doctors removed the tumor, they cut through his abdominal muscles. Jodi now brings Tate to equine therapy, and has seen marked improvement in his mobility and strength.
These days, Tate is thriving. Like any two year-old, he is full of energy and bickers regularly with his big brother. This June, Tate turned 3, and enjoyed a Mickey Mouse birthday party. For any family, a birthday is a day to celebrate, and for kids like Tate, birthdays are even bigger reasons to celebrate. Thanks to research advancements in the last 25 years, children like Tate will celebrate many birthdays to come. At CureSearch, we are proud to fund research that makes a difference for children with cancer today and into the future. Donate now to support these research efforts, and to ensure that more kids with cancer have longer, healthier futures ahead of them.
Tate Hartzler Update: November 2016
Today, Tate is doing extremely well. He is a healthy, thriving kindergartener. He will be 5 years cancer-free in February 2017. He loves science, spelling, and music. He is always giggling, singing, or talking. He has bilateral high pitch hearing loss due to chemotherapy, so he wears hearing aids and participates in speech therapy twice a week. He also has bilateral peripheral neuropathy in his legs which causes him to fall a lot, but he does not let any of that stop him. He played baseball this summer and had an awesome time. He played very well. He has basketball evaluations this week that he is super excited about. He can not wait to play basketball. He truly loves all things sports. We are blessed to watch Tate grow up and become the “normal” kid he is meant to be.