DANVERS (CBS) – 2011 hasn’t been kind to Mike and Kezia Fitzgerald.
In January, Kezia was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Less than 4 months later, a bigger shock rocked the family when their 11-month-old daughter, Saoirse, was diagnosed with Stage 4, nMYC amplified, Neuroblastoma.
Summer brought a glimmer of hope for the Fitzgeralds.
Kezia responded well to her cancer treatment and was in remission by the beginning of September.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mark Katic reports
Saoirse turned one in June and by September had completed her first six rounds of chemotherapy.
Her body was re-scanned and the doctors at Children’s Hospital Boston declared her cancer free.
Through it all, Saoirse dealt with her treatment as any toddler would, oblivious to the gravity and happy to simply play with her drum set by the fireplace next to mom, dad and their patient dog, Fallon.
But the family’s relief was short-lived.
Within weeks, a bone marrow biopsy of her hip, done at a hospital in New York City, showed Saoirse’s cancer was back, stronger and more dangerous than before.
“Most of our rollercoaster’s have been extremely steep because we’ve been told she’s in remission and then nope, she’s not,” says Mike, who on top of everything else was recently asked to leave his job as a car salesman.
His temporary leave ran out and while his company carried the family’s health insurance longer than it had to, it recently asked him to take a permanent leave.
Once the cancer returned, the family too returned to Boston.
Saoirse underwent another bout of highly potent chemotherapy, a desperate attempt to get the stubborn disease under control.
It didn’t work.
Another scan of found more cancer, this time in her skull.
Her eyes bulged and lumps grew on her little head.
At one year and five months, Saoirse was officially considered a relapsed Neuroblastoma patient with a less than one-percent chance for a cure.
Mike and Kezia say they can’t seem to shake a deep feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
“The thought of losing my daughter is heartbreaking, it blows me away. The dull pain doesn’t go away,” says Mike.
Since mid-November, the Fitzgeralds have spent every single day at the hospital.
Doctor’s at Children’s Hospital Boston gave Saoirse two rounds of radiation and chemotherapy during each visit. She was sedated twice a day.
Her response has been positive.
The swelling in her eyes and the lumps on her head have gone down. But everything from now on is experimental.
There is no cure.
Starting next week she’s scheduled to start another cycle of chemotherapy.
Mike spends his days researching new studies, different hospitals and possible treatments.
One of them would teach the antibodies in her immune system to fight the cancer.
Kezia, who has documented the family’s ordeal all year on her blog, is still doing well.
She doesn’t get the rest she needs but it’s a small sacrifice.
“We are determined to save our daughter,” says Mike, his voice unsteady. “A lot of crying to be honest, we both just have our moments where we start breaking down.”
And life continues to try the Fitzgeralds.
The Tuesday after Thanksgiving Mike got into a car accident and flipped over. But, he says, there’s no time to think about himself. Nothing is broken and the bruises will heal in time.
Saorise meanwhile continues to fight.
A fiercely independent baby likes being in her mom’s arms a lot more these days.
“She’s very needy right now, just very snuggly. She’ll have her moments where she’ll play blocks or take an ornament off the tree and play, but most of the time she wants to be held.”
And because life doesn’t slow down, even when it’s beating you up, she just started teething.
Family friends are hosting a comedy fundraiser for the Fitzgeralds on Thursday, December 1st at the J. Everett Collins Center at Andover High School, from 7 to 10 p.m.
A Facebook page has been set up with more information.