Bailey Jessop, 11, had started to walk with a limp.
His mom, Kimberly, a physical therapist at Le Bonheur Children’s, hoped it was growing pains, but then she noticed that his left knee was significantly larger than the right.
So, she went to see her longtime colleague, Le Bonheur Orthopedic Surgeon William Warner, MD. As they sat in the waiting room, Bailey quietly asked her: “What if it’s a tumor?”
For the next 10 months, Bailey endured an aggressive chemotherapy protocol to fight osteosarcoma attacking his body. During his treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he underwent multiple surgeries to remove part of his femur, replace it with a titanium prosthesis and then later graft his incision. He still faces more surgeries to extend his leg as he grows.
When Bailey was referred to cardiology after an echocardiogram showed heart damage to the lower part of his heart, the Jessops took it stride.
“Our lowest hanging fruit is cancer,” Kimberly said. “In the end, he’s cancer free and has a lifetime of side effects and surgery.”
I would never choose this as my story, but I would choose the same care for Bailey every time.
Bailey, now 15, still receives routine scans at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is followed by Le Bonheur Cardiologist Jason Goldberg, MD. Goldberg’s ability to relate to Kimberly’s skeptical teenager has helped the family navigate this next phase of care.
Before they get down to “heart talk,” Goldberg always makes sure to talk to Bailey about climbing, golf or whatever his new hobby might be. “I think he actually doesn’t mind going to cardiology,” Kimberly said. “He explains everything about his heart
to him directly, instead of just talking to me which is something I love about him,” she added. “I am so grateful that doctors are willing to research and help prevent conditions that may be preventable, such as the effect on the heart. For us, that means a better quality of life for our son and for so many others like him.”
Kimberly is a cancer survivor herself. In 2010, at age 33, she was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). A clinical trial for an experimental immunotherapy drug saved her life, so she understands better than most how important research can be.
Her experience helped her prepare and comfort Bailey on the worst days but has also added a layer of gratitude for what her family has endured.
“I would never choose this as my story, but I would choose the same care for Bailey every time,” she said. “Good gosh we’ve been so blessed. I’ve got both of my kids, and I’m still here.”
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