child patient at hospital

‘I Brought My 2-Year-Old to the Hospital for a Broken Leg & Left With a Cancer Diagnosis’

Just before Zy Zarazua turned two, he got sick with fevers and began limping. His parents took him to the doctor to get tested for infections but learned he had a broken femur. But further tests led to a cancer diagnosis of stage four high-risk neuroblastoma. “They started explaining that in the CT scan they had found the tumor, and it looks like it’s this cancer and it looks like it has spread already,” said his mother, Priscilla Jennings. “I couldn’t speak.” Zy’s life suddenly became a series of doctors, treatments, and hospital rooms.

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A Two-Year-Old’s Cancer Diagnosis

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and many people may not have been aware that young children could get this diagnosis. But even more surprisingly, only 4% of cancer funding goes to pediatric cancer. Especially since cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages one to 14, says the American Cancer Society. According to Dr. Ranjan Bista, a Hematology and Oncology doctor who is treating Zy at El Paso Children’s Hospital, neuroblastoma is a common pediatric cancer. Kids considered low-risk have about a 95% percent survival rate, while high-risk kids have about 50% percent survival rate. [1]

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Jennings didn’t know any of this when she took Zy to an orthopedic doctor. The toddler’s left femur was broken, to his parents’ surprise. Zy was an active child but he hadn’t had any injuries recently. Further tests found a tumor on Zy’s left adrenal gland. It had metastasized and broken his leg. Zy had his second birthday in a children’s hospital where they received his official diagnosis of stage 4 neuroblastoma. He had five tumors and cancer all over his body.

Read: 5-Year-Old Brother Carries His Little Sister’s Coffin to Say Goodbye to Her Forever

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Treatment After Treatment

Zy started chemotherapy but then he was one of the lucky ones picked to undergo a trial treatment called MIBG or metaiodobenzylguanidine therapy. Because only a few hospitals offer this treatment, children who qualify are picked through a computerized lottery. “He was the first child from El Paso to be selected for that MIBG therapy,” Jennings said. Around that time, the family started a GoFundMe page to help with medical as well as travel expenses. 

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So she and Zy flew out to Cooks’ Hospital in Fort Worth, for a high radiation treatment where Zy had to stay in isolation for six days. They could only interact through a window and intercom, aside from when his parents came in to change his diaper or give him food. “He did a lot of growing up in there,” Jennings said. “He had to feed himself, he had to soothe himself. It was just hard to not be there for him when he needed something.” His parents didn’t know if this treatment could help Zy’s cancer, but as a clinical trial, it can help children with the same diagnosis in the future.

After that, Zy continued to undergo chemotherapy as well as surgeries to remove the two tumors on his adrenal gland, and his adrenal gland itself. Then came his bone marrow transplant, which caused a bowel obstruction. But after a short procedure to fix that, he had his second bone marrow transplant. He experienced complications from the transplant, such as respiratory issues that forced him to go on oxygen. He had to be moved into the ICU on different occasions. [2] Zy also got diagnosed with TMA (Thrombotic Microangiopathy), pulmonary hypertension, and compensated heart failure.

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Three and Cancer-Free

Despite all he’s gone through, the end is yet to come. Zy is now three years old and cancer-free. This past week, he completed his first cycle of immunotherapy and faced it like a champ. When the treatment flared up his pulmonary hypertension, he had to stay at the hospital for further treatment. “My heart breaks for him,” wrote Jennings on Instagram that day. “I feel so helpless. Thankfully for most of the day he is happy and playful, and even wanted to see the rain at the window today…” Fortunately, Zy was able to go home a couple days later and celebrate. His treatments will continue for the next five months. [3]

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Keep Reading: Father Shares The Moment He Had To Choose Between Fiancee And His Unborn Child

Sources

  1. “Little boy battling cancer is first from El Paso to undergo clinical trial therapy.” CBS Austin. Jessica Gonzalez. September 15, 2021.
  2. “’The doctor asked if I knew – I burst into tears and nodded my head’.Kids Spot. Priscilla Jennings. May 18, 2022
  3. Zy Paul. Instagram. Agust 20, 2022
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