Young survivor, family raise awareness of childhood cancer

Published: Sep. 26, 2019 at 10:26 PM CDT
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Elliott Scales is a busy 17 months old.

"He's a happy kid. He's just always smiling and laughing," his mom, Myrna, says of his personality.

It's hard to tell he's already battled cancer.

"We were playing with him one night and we felt a lump, a hard lump, on his belly," Myrna said.

Myrna and her husband Sterling took their son to the pediatrician the next day. They felt it, and immediately sent the family to Stormont Vail for further tests.

"From there, our whole lives just changed completely," Myrna said.

At three months old, Elliott was diagnosed with Wilms tumor on his left kidney. Three days later, he underwent an eight-hour surgery at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City to remove a tumor the size of an eggplant from his tiny body.

Tests came back positive for cancer.

"It was like an empty drop, unbelievable," Sterling said. "We knew that we had to do what needed to be done to get him healthy."

Dr. Youmna Othman of Cotton O'Neil Cancer Center in Topeka said Wilms tumor is usually seen in toddlers. It was rare to see it in a child as young as Elliott.

Othman says Elliott's tumor also was especially fast growing. But the good news is treatment for Wilms tumor is highly successful. Other forms of childhood cancer are not.

"Every kid that we diagnosis and can't say for sure, 'Yes, your kid has cancer and we have the absolute treatment' - that's still a long way we have to go," Othman said. "We can say now, 'Your kid has cancer and we have some treatment,' but it's not absolute. We still lose some patients."

More than 11,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and about 1100 will die from it.

Plus, treatments carry side effects. Elliott underwent radiation and months of chemo. It caused nerve damage in his feet, so he's wearing braces on his legs to regain strength as he learns to walk.

Also, with one kidney, he'll have to avoid contact sports, and be cautious about taking medicines.

It's why the Scales now work to raise awareness. Myrna writes an online blog to help other moms and families, and Sterling raised money for research by running 46 miles during September's Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

"The whole 46 miles I ran because 46 kids are diagnosed with childhood cancer every school day," he explained.

It's also a reminder of a journey - not easy - but hopefully leading to a bright future.

"It hurts," Sterling said. "It's a feeling of joy and hurt that he had to go through this, but happiness knowing that part's behind us, let's focus on moving forward."

Myrna agrees.

"Every time that we look at him, we look at his smile, and think about how blessed we are to have him," she said.

You can help the search for a cure at the 3rd annual Shaving for Second Chances, 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at The Foundry Event Center, 400 SW 33rd St.

The event includes a silent auction, and more than a dozen people will shave their heads to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

There's no admission to attend, but donations are encouraged. If you can't make it, you can donate