Thirteen-year-old Lofton Crouse and his family love to fish. They also love Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, so it was a natural fit for the Orange Beach teen who was the face of the Reel Hope Classic fishing tournament benefitting patients at the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s.
Nearly five years ago, Lofton was one of those patients undergoing treatment at Children’s for a malignant tumor.
When he was just 5 years old, Lofton was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus, a rare condition in which the kidneys are unable to prevent the excretion of water. Diabetes insipidus can be caused by damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland as a result of loss of blood supply to the gland, genetic problems, head injury, surgery, infection or a tumor.
For years, routine MRIs showed nothing. “But in February of 2012, we brought Lofton in for an annual checkup with his endocrinologist in Pensacola, and his labs and MRI came back out of whack,” said Lofton’s mother, Lisa. A second MRI was taken, and this time the image was clear – a tumor at the base of Lofton’s pituitary gland.
“We were referred a week later to Children’s and Dr. Gregory Friedman,” Lisa said. “Initially, everyone felt confident the tumor was benign. But later, we agreed to a biopsy that showed it was cancerous – a malignant germinoma (a rare cerebral tumor that can cause central diabetes insipidus in childhood). Two weeks after that, Lofton started his first round of chemotherapy.”
In addition to the stress of Lofton’s diagnosis, Lisa and her husband, Chris, had to deal with the well-meaning advice of friends, family and even strangers.
“Many people questioned our decision to have Lofton treated at Children’s instead of a well-known cancer center in a neighboring state,” Lisa explains. “But after our first meeting with Dr. Friedman, we knew that Children’s was where we were meant to be. We didn’t want to take Lofton to a lot of places or put him through meeting a lot of different doctors. For all of our sakes, we wanted to stay in Alabama.
“We had been catapulted into a situation no parent ever wants to deal with,” Lisa added. “But Dr. Friedman was always very calming and he always provided us with the information we needed. He is an excellent doctor and Children’s is a wonderful hospital. In fact, Children’s treats 90 percent of the pediatric hematology/oncology patients in Alabama. So, we have never regretted our decision to stay there.”
Lofton completed his fourth and final round of chemo on his Dad’s birthday – Sept. 14 – in 2012. Then on Nov. 24, 2012, he finished six intensive weeks of daily radiation therapy. He has been in remission for almost five years now.
“We love, love, love Dr. Friedman,” Lisa said. “And we are so proud that we have this really phenomenal children’s hospital in our state. Through our experience with Lofton, we realized that many people are not aware of what we have here—and that’s why we wanted to help with the Reel Hope Classic. We want to educate our community about the great resource we have in Children’s of Alabama.”