Ashton is a tough, rambunctious three-year-old. He’s always had a high pain tolerance. Saturday, February 22 was his older sister’s eighth birthday party. Ashton, who lives in Bismarck, ran and played hard and when he complained of pain in his legs the next morning, his parents assumed it was because he had over-done it the day before and was likely experiencing growing pains. By Monday morning, he was not able to walk without excruciating pain so he was seen by a local pediatrician who ordered labs and an x-ray to rule out any fractures. Within a few hours, Ashton was admitted for further testing that revealed an unknown type of large mass growing above his kidney. The next day, he and his mom were life-flighted to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Ashton was diagnosed with stage four, high-risk neuroblastoma. He has a massive tumor in his abdomen that has spread to his right femur and there is also a smaller spot on his left femur. He is not able to bear weight on his legs due to pain and doctor’s orders.
Ashton and his mom have not left Rochester since arriving on February 25th. He has gone through countless labs, MRIs, a MIBG scan, CT Scans, X-rays, blood draws, surgeries to put in a port and g-tube, blood transfusions, chemotherapy and several biopsies including a bone marrow draw. Because his tumor is so large, it is not able to be removed so doctors are hoping to shrink it and the plan is to try to do surgery after the third or fourth round of chemo. Due to the added risk from the recent COVID-19 pandemic and additional restrictions that have been put into place because of it, Ashton and his mom are completely isolated from everyone, including Ashton’s dad and his sister. Ashton has shown his strength through it all and is showing progress every day. He is currently staying connected to the rest of the world via Skype, where he loves to tell others about his day, whether it be an art project he completed or just about a toy with which he enjoys playing. He has his favorite nurses who he is eager to allow into his room to play with cars and dinosaurs. This little spit-fire always commands their attention and nurses cannot resist his sweetness and charm.
LaShae, Ashton’s mom said, “We as his parents are obviously scared. We are taking it moment-by-moment for our child, but we are scared for our family and we’re absolutely terrified of the outcome. We understand that he is in the best place possible, but to not know the future is nerve-wracking. We love him so much and to be dealing with this along with COVID-19 has become an absolute nightmare from which we just keep hoping we will wake.”