DENVER — This year, a family from Crested Butte received a life-changing diagnosis. This holiday season, their story is a clear reminder that sometimes the best gifts are never found under a tree.
“It has definitely given us a new appreciation for health,” says Jennifer Allen. “I think that’s something you take for granted until you or someone you love is sick.”
Since August, Jennifer Allen has been balancing between raising a newborn and seeking medical treatment for her son Tyler.
The two-year-old boy was diagnosed with kidney cancer this fall. The diagnosis came after a series of visits to the emergency department in Crested Butte, the family’s hometown.
“He had episodes where he couldn’t breathe and had trouble walking, and sometimes he even threw up,” Allen said.
Doctors eventually found the culprit to be a large tumor on the toddler’s kidney.
Allen and her son were helicoptered to Children’s Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora for emergency surgery.
“My first thought was, you know, please don’t let him die,” Allen said. “We were terrified, we didn’t know what was going to happen – but basically the moment we got off the plane the doctors were there to greet us and they assured us that, ‘We’re pretty sure we know what this is , and we know how to fight this.'”
A surgical team from Children’s Colorado successfully removed the tumor. The boy’s journey includes chemotherapy.
“The good news is that for the vast majority of children with kidney cancer, they have great outcomes,” says Dr. Nicholas Cost, Tyler’s surgeon from Children’s Colorado.
The toddler continues chemotherapy in facilities closer to where the family temporarily lives. dr. Cost says he is working closely with other providers to continue Tyler treatment under the Children’s Colorado healthcare system.
“I’m really looking at, how can we keep them in their normal activities? How else can we keep them healthy? How can we make sure their families are doing well and functioning well?” said Dr. cost.
“They’ve got a whole team that’s there to support us, social workers, childcare specialists — just anything we need, they’ve been there to help us,” Allen said.
Allen says she is most amazed at her son’s courage during the entire ordeal.
“It was just a huge adjustment for him, and he’s just stayed so happy and nice, so I’m just so proud of him,” she said through tears.