Thomas Evans
Houston County
Feature Story
Thomas Evans is an avid golf fan who loves to play to the game every chance he gets. When he began complaining about his side hurting one day, his parents didn’t think much of it because he had hit the course just hours earlier. When the pain persisted, however, Thomas’ mom, Julie, knew a trip to the pediatrician was best.

“We just wanted to be sure everything was OK,” Julie said. “The pediatrician thankfully wanted to do an ultrasound and sent us on to the hospital to have it done.”

The ultrasound revealed a large mass in Thomas’ abdomen. After one more scan to confirm, Thomas was sent from his hometown in Dothan to Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham for further testing to confirm if the mass was cancerous. Doctors initially thought Thomas had pheochromocytoma, a rare, typically noncancerous tumor that develops in the small glands on top of the kidneys (adrenal glands). After meeting with a nephrologist and a team of doctors, Thomas was sent home with medication that would prepare his body for surgery in two weeks.

“The doctors sat down with us and told us everything they knew and everything they possibly could about Thomas’ condition,” Julie said. “They were so thorough, and they made sure we understood everything. But they knew that to truly know the extent of the issue it would be through surgery to remove the mass.”

After two weeks, Thomas was admitted to Children’s for a 10-and-a-half hour surgery that removed an 11-pound tumor from his abdomen. “It was in fact coming from his right adrenal gland and it grew across his midline,” Julie said. “They essentially had to cut him in half to remove it.”

The surgeon was able to remove the mass and testing revealed it was neuroblastoma, another form of cancer found in the adrenal glands. It was unclear if the entire mass was removed, so doctors sent Thomas and his family to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where a nuclear scan confirmed some of the mass remained in his abdomen. “After that we’ve really just been going back and forth every three months for scans,” Julie said. “Doctors want to watch it to see if it grows or not.”

Thomas and his family continue to travel to Cincinnati every few months for scans with trips to Children’s in Birmingham in between. He may eventually undergo chemotherapy or radiation or perhaps a bone marrow transplant. But for now, he and his family are taking it one day at a time. He’s healed well from surgery, back in school, and even back to practicing his golf swing.

“Thomas is very resilient,” Julie said. “He understands what is going on and he’s doing well considering. We’re all very thankful for the doctors, nurses and therapists at Children’s who have helped him come so far. They have been wonderful. And so are the many other parents who are there going through similar situations. You bond with the doctors and staff, but you also bond with the parents who understand exactly what you’re going through.”