Nicholas McIntosh has undergone treatment for leukemia since his diagnosis on November 7, 2011 – a day Juanita Lezama-McIntosh will never forget. “When you hear the word cancer, it’s devastating,” she says.
At that time, Nicholas was a happy four-year-old boy, full of energy and with no symptoms of illness. Juanita says his diagnosis happened in the blink of an eye. One day she noticed dark bruises, swollen lymph nodes and tiny red freckles on Nicholas’ body. After seeing two pediatricians, they were sent directly to the Dell Children’s Emergency Room, where he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“When the results came back, my heart was completely broken,” she says. “But my tears stopped the moment Nicholas asked, ‘What happened Mama? What’s wrong with you?’ I stopped my crying right there. I knew I had to be strong for Nicholas.”
He began a three-year regimen of chemotherapy treatment. The first few weeks were most difficult for the family. “Nicholas would become very upset on clinic days. He was afraid of needles and getting hooked up to monitors, and he knew he was going to get poked.”
Juanita is grateful for the Children’s Blood & Cancer Center staff, including the child life specialists, who did a wonderful job in reducing his anxiety. He underwent one year of intense treatment, followed by maintenance therapy. In September 2014, Nicholas was just months away from completing treatment when his family received shocking news – his leukemia was back. He went through more rigorous treatment and spent many days as an inpatient at Dell Children’s Medical Center.
“After the second diagnosis, it was so hard,” says Juanita. “I was told the cancer was more aggressive and treatment would be more difficult. I couldn’t believe it. It still hurts to watch him go through this, but we have learned to deal with it and live day by day.”
Spreading Joy Through Cake!
The McIntosh family looks forward to when Nicholas’ cancer treatment ends in January 2017. He has been a trooper, says Juanita. He begins fourth grade in the fall, enjoys math and science and dreams of being an astronaut. He loves playing with Legos, lifting weights and boxing with a punching bag.
He also has a caring heart. One day while undergoing treatment in the CBCC clinic, Nicholas planned a special surprise for Juanita. “He was hiding something at the table and said ‘no peeking.’ I wondered what he was doing,” she says, “Then he called Cindy and the nurses into the kitchen and said ‘this is for you, Mom.’”
Nicholas had decorated a cake all by himself and presented it along with a hand-written note that read, “Mom, you are the best mom ever. I really like the food you make me all the time and the way you take care of me. I love you so much for being my mom.”
Juanita says, “It made me feel so happy!”
Inspired by this little boy’s sweet love for his mother, the “Nicholas Project” was created to provide precious moments for CBCC patients and their families. The “Nicholas Project” continues at the CBCC, thanks to support from the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation, which provides cakes, icing and toppings that patients can decorate and enjoy with their loved ones.