Nick was listless and had a swollen belly when parents Ted and Lydia Leslie took the 3-year-old to a hospital.
The Oklahoma City couple thought their son would undergo a simple procedure. But it was the beginning of a desperate search for a way to save the boy.
What doctors had originally thought was a cyst turned out to be a softball-size tumor near the child's liver. The boy had neuroblastoma, a leading form of childhood cancer. And doctors told the couple the cancer was inoperable.
“We were really devastated,” Lydia said.
“... Just earth-shattering,” Ted said.
The child underwent six months of chemotherapy, then two stem-cell transplants in consecutive months. “His tumor was still there,” Lydia said.
All that remained in the medical protocol was radiation, so Nick endured that, Lydia recalled. “It didn't work. The tumor was still the same size.”
Refusing to give up, the Leslies began a nationwide quest for specialists who might help. They took Nick to New York, where a surgeon removed most of the tumor. They went to Philadelphia for procedures that targeted remaining viable cancer cells with injected radioisotopes.
Ted, an attorney, and Lydia, a civil engineer, earned a good living, and friends stepped up to help, organizing benefit golf tournaments to help with medical expenses. Still, the years of treatment were straining their finances, especially since some of the later treatments were not covered by insurance. However, when the choice is your child or your lifestyle, it's no choice at all, Ted, 47, said.
“It causes you to refocus priorities,” he said. “I pretty quickly sold my Harley.”
Ted recalled several moments during quiet evenings at home with his son resting in his lap “that I thought that was going to be the end.” But it wasn't.