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Cancer survivor thrives

Posted on 04/03/2009 12:00am

By Rachel Stern - Nanaimo News Bulletin

Dexter Komen is just like every other three-year-old boy - he loves running and playing with his sister Rudy and making things out of playdough.

You'd never guess that at five-and-a-half weeks old, he was the youngest person to be diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer.

Dexter's mother Sonia first discovered an egg-shaped lump in her son's back.

"Sonia would point it out and say, ‚¬Ã…¡¬ÃƒÆ’‚¬¹Ãƒ€¦‚¬Å“What is this fleshy bump?'" said Pierre Komen, Dexter's father.

"The part that we saw was the small part of the egg and then it grew in," added Sonia. "It was attached to one of the nerves in his spine."

The family sought answers from Dexter's pediatrician, who scheduled an X-ray and ultrasound.

But because of wait times in Nanaimo it took six weeks. Sonia and her midwife pushed to move the tests forward and their persistance paid off. After people learned Dexter was an infant, he became a top priority.

The family was out when the pediatrician phoned with news and Sonia arrived to hear the pediatrician's urgent message.

"When I phoned her she said it's a tumour - it's not necessarily cancerous but doesn't mean it isn't cancer. Just to be safe you need to go to children's hospital and they're expecting you there tomorrow," said Sonia. "Hearing that word made my eyes roll up into my head."

At the B.C. Children's Hospital, Dexter's cancer was diagnosed and a back surgeon removed the tumour, which was attached to a nerve along his spine.

"It was in a pretty tight spot ... and the surgeon, I just love the man, it's just amazing and literally he saved [Dexter's] life," said Pierre.

Just to be safe, doctors also had Dexter undergo 42 weeks of chemotherapy. He had a central line surgically installed, two blood transfusions and went from home to the hospital for treatments.

Doctors said the area around the tumour didn't show any signs of cancer and Dexter finished his treatment.

"It's a no news is a good news kind of thing," said Pierre. "He'll still have checkups for the rest of his life."

Now Dexter is an exuberant three-year-old full of life, climbing over and under furniture with his sister.

He's a boy with a taste for honey garlic chicken wings, a love of Spiderman and a survivor.

reporter3@nanaimobulletin.com