Coy Face is a first grader from Trinity, Alabama, a small community near Decatur. Coy was just three years old when his mom, April, discovered the lump in his side. It was a Saturday morning, October 15, 2005. The pediatrician told April to bring Coy in on Monday. They were immediately sent to a local hospital, where a surgeon told them he was “pretty sure” that Coy had Wilm’s tumor, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children.
On Tuesday morning, Coy traveled to Children’s Hospital by ambulance. Things happened very quickly. On Thursday, Coy had his first surgery to biopsy both kidneys, and a port was inserted. On Friday, he started chemo and on Monday, radiation.
At first, April cried all the time. “It is so scary to hear that your three-year-old has stage 5 cancer,” she recalls. “It’s the unknown. Is he going to make it?” We went from two incomes to one in a matter of days; April also worried about her seven year old at home. Dr. Howard, Coy’s original doctor, told April that he was going to “take her out and feed her bear meat to toughen her up.”
“It was hard on the entire family, but Children’s Hospital and the other families who were on Four Tower helped. They became our family. Every day, you saw your kids playing in the hallway, all the bald babies out there together.” April remembers one little girl who rode around on her I.V. pole. April still keeps in touch with several of Coy’s Four Tower playmates even now.
Coy’s case was especially rare because the cancer affected both kidneys. After shrinking the tumors as much as possible through chemo and radiation, doctors at Children’s performed surgery. One entire kidney and half of the other one had to be removed.
April remembers so many people who were there for her family during the long days in the hospital following Coy’s surgery – a lady who came with puppets, others who read to Coy even when he was sedated, a young staffer named Kelly who plays with Coy each time he visits the hospital, and of course, Dr. Howard and Dr. Greg. There was even a song written especially for Coy, with his name in it, and sent them the CD.
Since Wilm’s tumors often attack other soft tissues like the liver and lungs after consuming the kidneys, Coy returns to Children’s often to make sure that he is still in remission. Right now, Coy’s remaining kidney is functioning at a 60-80% level.
April knows that Coy may someday face a kidney transplant. Before that happens, he will probably have to start dialysis. If and when that time comes. Children’s is there with the state’s only pediatric dialysis unit. “Hopefully, that is still a way off for us,” says April.