10 years ago feels like yesterday.
On June 11 2007, my little cousin turned 11. With all his close friends and plenty of loving family, the Manrique home was filled with undeniable joy for a late lunch celebration. From the driveway, you could hear the high-pitched shrieks and hoots from the many kids and pre-teens out back. My aunts and uncles would need to weave through the juvenile watergun frontier if they didn’t want to get hit. Although chaotic, you could see the smiles of celebration and hear the laughter of youth in everyone.
The inside saw less commotion, but my relatives definitely met the decibel level of outside. My dad and a few others, having what looked to be a loud chat over a few beers, would only add to the sound of the many teenagers talking about the upcoming summer vacation. You could also hear the sound of shuffling cards and clinking chips as my mom, grandma, and a few titas and titos played their hands in a family game of poker.
This would seem like an average family birthday party had it not been for the elephant in the room. Sitting on a special chair in the living room, only surrounded by a few people at a time, was my 11 year-old cousin. At first glance, the subsequent groups of approaching kids, teenagers, and adults may have appeared normal, but once focusing sight on Lorenzo, you could see a few uncommon features.
Winding out from his nostrils was an oxygen tube, connected to its respective tank under the chair.
I was only 13. I had very minimal exposure to medical instruments, let alone understand what they were for. All I knew was that one of my most lighthearted, cheerful, and ever-smiling cousins had cancer.
Protruding from under his shirt was his tumor-filled abdomen, giving the appearance of a bloated belly. This internal growth and palpable mass was the cause for the oxygen tank, which ultimately impeded on his lungs’ capacity. Lorenzo had DSRCT: Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumour.
Although rare, this type of highly aggressive cancer is known to occur in adolescent and young adult males. Mainly occurring in the abdominal cavity, the minimal cases reported worldwide meant, and still means, there is minimal information to strategically combat DSRCT’s progressive growth.
A complete surgical resection is said to be rarely possible, usually due to either liver metastasis, infiltration into hepatic (liver) veins, or involvement of the diaphragm. As of 2007, combination chemotherapy treatments saw negative results as a complete cure. As well, local radiotherapy research was showing little use and could actually cause further complications and toxicities.
Upon diagnosis, the median survival range typically covers a mere 17 to 25 months.
(Stuart-Buttle, 2008) (Dufresne et al., 2012)
On June 24 2007, I woke up from a family sleepover to my uncle saying
"Hey guys, wake up. Lorenzo’s gone."
To this day, 10 years ago feels like yesterday.
With such low efficacy of treatment, it seems almost dutiful to help push the boundaries of known research. To fight these limitations, the Manrique family has annually continued to raise awareness and funds through the Guelph Relay for Life foundation.
Stuart-Buttle, C., C. Smart, S. Pritchard, D. Martin, and I. Welch. "Desmoplastic Small round Cell Tumour: A Review of Literature and Treatment Options." Surgical Oncology 17.2 (2008): 107-12. Print.
Dufresne, Armelle, Philippe Cassier, Laure Couraud, Perrine Marec-Berard, Pierre Meeus, Laurent Alberti, and Jean-Yves Blay. "Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor: Current Management and Recent Findings." Sarcoma 2012 (2012): 1+. 22 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 Mar. 2013. <http://www.hindawi.com/journals/srcm/2012/714986/>.
I wrote this article a few years ago on an old blog. Today is Lorenzo's 21st birthday, and it reminded me I had this saved somewhere. I also wrote this during undergrad, in the midst of writing many a scientific articles and reports, so you may note a slight difference in writing style. Only slight edits were made to make sense today (e.g. - how long ago things happened). Either way, it still feels like yesterday.