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BUFFALO, N.Y. — “I was kind of scared, you know because some people die from cancer, so I was thinking like, was I going to die?” Jordan Parker wondered.
Jordan Parker had good reason to worry. He was diagnosed with an advanced stage of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 13. That’s a cancer that grows in the body’s lymph nodes, and it’s painful.
“You know, like when you get stung by a bee? It’s like multiple bees keep stinging me on my side, and then I got on the floor and started crying,” Jordan said.
This type of cancer is treatable but it had already spread to many places in Jordan’s body. That means after they treated him, it still had about a 25 percent chance of coming back. And on top of that, the treatment was known to do a lot of damage.
“So they can lead to significant heart disease, second cancers, lung problems, infertility,” said Pediatric Oncologist/Hematologist Kara Kelly, MD of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“And all of that affects long-term survival of the patient, but also the quality of life of their survival.”
Jordan recalls his family’s reaction to his diagnosis.
“Everybody was crying, but I wasn’t crying. I said, ‘We’re going to get through this!’ ” he said.
And Jordan did have reason to be optimistic. He was chosen to take part in a large clinical trial, led by Dr. Kelly at Roswell Park, along with doctors at two other cancer centers. The therapy added a new drug called Brentuximab Vedotin to a regime that included five cycles of chemotherapy over 15 weeks and also radiation.
“I would get sick. I would throw up, and use the bathroom a lot. I wouldn’t have an appetite so much. And you know my hair would fall out,” Jordan said.
“It’s the Bible verse that’s Philippians, that says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. So I had to keep reminding myself, ‘I can do it,’ because He can help me and I can get strength from that,” Jordan said.
And Jordan got more than strength. He got an answer to his prayers. At the end of treatment, he was in complete remission, with no evidence of disease. That was six years ago.
“And now that he’s six years out, he’s had no recurrence of his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and so he’s really at the time point where we consider him cured,” Dr. Kelly said.
“That’s pretty exciting, especially for a 19-year-old, for sure.”
Study results also showed that kids treated like Jordan now only had an 8% chance of a recurrence, which is a significant improvement. And there were also no new side effects from this treatment.
The good news doesn’t end there. The impressive study results were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In just one week, it got the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which agreed that this treatment should become the new standard for pediatric high-risk Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“They were so strong that the FDA group agreed that it should now be officially licensed for pediatric use,” Dr. Kelly said.
“That’s rare for that to happen so quickly,” Maryalice Demler said.
“Absolutely. Or even just to happen at all,” Dr. Kelly said.
The success of the Roswell Park study means that young people like Jordan get to live their dreams. He’s already sharing his cancer journey as a pastor: preaching, praising, and thankful.
“So when I heard that I was in remission, I gave thanks to God, but also gave thanks to my family. And thanks to the doctors and thanks to the people that helped me,” Jordan said.
“I believe that God do things for a reason. And sometimes, you know, even though we don’t know the reason, God is always going to bring us through.”
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