At 2-years-old, Grant is so energetic that his parents, Wesley and Shanna, can barely keep up. He loves basketball, playing his toy drums and guitar, and climbing on everything. You'd never guess that just a few months earlier, he was fighting for his life.
In 2021, Wesley and Shanna took Grant to the pediatrician when they noticed he was losing weight. Their pediatrician referred them to a gastrointestinal specialist. Then they noticed an even more concerning symptom.
"Wesley noticed a bulge on Grant's side," Shanna says. "We took him to the ER and found out he had a tumor."
The ER doctors at their local hospital thought it was likely a pediatric kidney cancer called Wilms tumor, and sent the family to Children's Health℠.
"We didn't even sit down and cry because our brains didn't have time to process," Shanna says. "We showed up to oncology at 3:00 a.m. wondering, 'oh my goodness, how did we get here?' But as scary as it was, we could feel God covering us at that time and for the next nine months. We knew we had Him and the prayers of so many people behind us and that carried us."
Shanna and Wesley were grateful for an oncology fellow who supported them that night.
"He really helped us understand what we had in front of us and what the outcomes were, which gave us a lot of peace of mind," Shanna says. "He gave us some hope that it would be okay."
Refreshingly straightforward surgery to remove a Wilms tumor
Two days later, Grant was ready for surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor and one of his kidneys.
"They told us they had a lot of experience with this type of cancer and had successfully treated many kids, which took a weight off our shoulders," Wesley says. "'Refreshingly straightforward' was how they described the procedure."
Grant's cancer was mostly contained to his kidney. To make sure they got all of the cancer cells and help keep the disease from coming back, his care team recommended radiation treatment and nine months of chemotherapy.
The care team did a routine echocardiogram, which takes pictures of the heart, ahead of chemotherapy. That's when they found something no one was expecting: Grant's heart was failing.
Expert cardiac care allows successful cancer treatment
Severe heart dysfunction as a result of Wilms tumor is rare – and it can make cancer treatment more challenging.
That's when the team called in Nathanya Baez Hernandez, M.D., Pediatric Cardiologist who leads the Cardio-Oncology Program at Children's Health and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern. The only one of its kind in North Texas, this program helps manage and prevent heart problems for children undergoing cancer treatment and helps keep pediatric cancer survivors' hearts healthy as they grow up.
"This was a case where a child needed truly multidisciplinary care: He needed cancer treatment to save his life. But his heart needed to be strong to undergo cancer therapy," Dr. Baez Hernandez says.
The care team gave Grant medicine for heart failure and started closely monitoring his heart disease progression. Thanks to comprehensive care from the cardio-oncology team, Grant's heart grew stronger. His cancer team soon started low-dose chemotherapy treatments.
Nine months after his diagnosis, Grant was declared cancer-free.
Long-term cardio-oncology care for a healthy future
Grant is now a happy, healthy 2-year-old. He still comes to Children's Health for cancer screenings and ongoing cardio-oncology care.
"More children are surviving cancer, and we know that these kids are at higher risk for heart complications later in life," says Dr. Baez Hernandez. "We never forget children like Grant. We continue to provide cardiovascular care as they grow up and help prevent problems in the future."
For Shanna and Wesley, they're grateful for the expert care Grant received – and they're glad to be back to life as usual, enjoying their time with their happy kid.
"When we see friends and family that we don't see very often, they can't believe it. They're like 'That's him? He's the one that was so sick?'" Shanna says. "He's just a typical 2-year-old. We are so blessed."
Learn more about our Cardio-Oncology Program
The Cardio-Oncology Program at Children's Health is the only one of its kind in North Texas. We support children who are currently undergoing cancer treatment and care for childhood cancer survivors as they grow up. Learn more about The Heart Center and Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.