Malcolm is the 4th of 7 children in the Thornock home with 2 older brothers, 1 older sister, 1 younger brother, and 2 younger sisters. He was born in Texas and has lived in Iowa for the past 6 years. In May of 2013, Malcolm was just like many 4 year-old children. He loved to play with his siblings, run around, and cuddle. However, he was sick. He had a fever and an upset stomach - par for the course of a kid in a large family. The problem was that it didn't go away. During the course of this illness, he complained about his head hurting. As this was not normal at all for kids to complain about head paid, Malcolm's dad took him to the emergency room. The doctors scanned his head and his abdomen finding multiple tumors in both locations. We were rushed to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital (UICH) in Iowa City, IA for diagnosis and treatment. Malcolm had advanced Stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Our world was turned upside down.
Malcolm was then thrust into cancer treatments, receiving at UICH a total of 10 high-dose chemotherapy treatments, 2 rounds of radiation treatment, and surgery to remove some tumors. He was making progress, but never quite enough to reduce the cancer to invisibility. The doctors at UICH knew there were facilities that could offer Malcolm specialized treatments for his cancer and they referred us to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Malcolm received 2 rounds of a specialized radioactive treatment to target his cancer. This treatment was partially effective, but still left substantial cancer throughout his body. As one of the last options available, the doctors recommended that he participate in a clinical trial for an immunotherapy treatment that would "trick" the body into using its own immune system to attack the cancer. However, its effectiveness was unlikely and it would be "excruciatingly painful" (but with no long-term side effects).
In August of 2014, Malcolm began the first of 10 rounds of this treatment. After the second round, the scans came back clear! The cancer was miraculously gone. While the doctors understand the mechanism when this treatment does work, they only partially understand why it works for one child and not for another. The doctors themselves were floored at the effectiveness of the treatment for Malcolm - truly a miracle.
Malcolm is now over 2 years off of treatment and still clear. We understand that cancer will always be a part of our life (as Malcolm still has a high likelihood of recurrence and his body will always be different because of the cancer) but we are extremely grateful for the extended and healthy time that Malcolm has had in life. All who meet or know this boy feel his innocent maturity and sure knowledge of God's love for him and for each of us. We have been so blessed by the generosity and service of many people during this trial in Malcolm's and our life - family, friends, community members, and organizations (like DM) who have supported our family in ways and through means that matter well beyond the apparent value of the help.