By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
Although he appreciates medical staffs and all they've done for his son, Air Force Capt. George Patton Lansberry – from Copperas Cove – recognizes that a liver transplant for his 2-year-old son, Brandon, won't come cheap.
"It's a double-edged sword and comes at the expense of another child's life," Lansberry said.
Citing that Brandon's diagnosis with pretext stage IV hepatoblastoma – a very rare pediatric liver cancer that affects less than one in 1 million children in the U.S. annually – is the most difficult thing he and his family have had to deal with, Lansberry said it would have been 10 times harder without the support the family has received.
Since the age of 1, Brandon frequently visited the hospital for ear infections and fevers. On the weekend before his second birthday, when everything seemed normal, Brandon's mother, Alicia, noticed a lump on the boy's stomach.
Alicia took Brandon to his primary care physician, who said that the lump was serious and referred the family to the University of Oklahoma Children's Hospital where, on his birthday, Brandon was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma.
"His liver was sticking out of his stomach it was so distended," Lansberry said.
CT scans determined that Brandon had four nodules in his lungs as a result of the cancer metastasizing, and many more small masses throughout his liver.
"The liver is the only part of the body that can regenerate. But, the many small masses on his liver made it impossible for doctors to operate so he received chemo to reduce the tumors," Lansberry said.
Little is known about the cancer's origins, Lansberry said, adding that it's not hereditary despite the family's preconceived notions. "We've done genetic testing, and the tests all came back negative. But these are immature liver cells that never developed, and it's something that began in the womb."
Since his diagnosis on Sept. 29, 2008, Brandon has undergone a biopsy, chemotherapy four times, several minimally invasive procedures to remove two of the four nodules that developed in his lungs and 17 blood transfusions.
As a result of the chemotherapy, Brandon's kidneys are currently operating at 50 percent of their capability, he has developed moderate to severe hearing loss and an eye deviation causing one of his eyes to turn inward. Around Christmas, Brandon was listed as awaiting a liver transplant.
Despite what they've been through, the Lansberrys are grateful.
"If this would have been left undiagnosed, Brandon would have had only a few days to several weeks to live. Until you sit down and think about what could have happened, it doesn't sink in," Lansberry said, adding that it could have been worse.
"There are a lot of families who can't afford to be at the hospital every day with their kids. There are families in worse shape than us. We're fortunate to be where we are. We try to remain positive and strong."
The Lansberrys don't want money or material things, just prayers and awareness in the community. As far as Brandon's situation, the cancer has subsided, but the boy is still sick and in the hospital.
"He's very brave and resilient despite going through so much. We're just trying to keep his morale and spirits high. It's all in God's hands now," Lansberry said about his son.
For more information about Brandon's condition, visit the Lansberrys' blog at www.caringbridge.org/visit/brandonlans-berry.
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.