A small lump on a young boy's leg led to a deadly cancer diagnosis, with his family being told his illness was terminal.
Eight-year-old Chandler Tran, from Sydney, was enjoying his Easter break when his parents noticed him limping. They later found a "pea sized" lump on his shin.
At first Cong, 42, and Trang, 41, from Fairfield in Sydney, thought he'd bumped his leg, but their son assured them he hadn't. It turned out to be osteosarcoma — a rare form of bone cancer and six months of hospital stays, surgery and chemotherapy followed.
Boy's health worsens
But the parents faced their worst nightmare when they were told the cancer had spread after being sent to Westmead Children's from Fairfield Hospital. There, doctors found multiple tumours in young Chandler's lungs. Chandler's father told Yahoo News they were "shocked" by the news, particularly learning of how far it'd progressed in such a short time. But they didn't give up hope, and Chandler "took it like a champ."
"He's a very smart kid, he's eight years old but you can talk to him as an adult, and he will understand the majority of the conversation," Mr Tran said. Chandler endured 10 weeks of chemotherapy to help rid his body of cancer, but not without sleepless nights, ongoing fevers and excruciating pain. In September, doctors told the parents they wanted to amputate his leg, which wouldn't cure the disease but it would stop the pain. It was a "no brainer" for his parents who said it was a "very obvious" choice.
"When you take the emotion out of it and how gruesome the whole idea of it is, the amputation was the obvious choice because the recovery time was just a matter of weeks," Mr Tran told Yahoo News. "We explained it to him and we showed him pictures of kids with amputated and prosthetic legs. We explained to him what would happen and he was very understanding and stoic about it."
Chandler's 'love letter' to leg ahead of surgery
The night before his surgery, Chandler "wrote a love letter" to his leg. He asked his dad to take a photo of it before writing a sweet message on his tablet. "Dear leg, I will miss you so much when you're gone," he wrote and signed off with his name. He"didn't seem bothered by it," his father revealed, which made it easier for them to cope.
Family told 'nothing can be done'
But in October, Mr and Mrs Tran got the heartbreaking news that the chemo Chandler had been receiving wasn't working. "The lungs at that point had really progressed and they found the right lung was filled with fluid and the tumours in both lungs had grown in size and in quantity," he explained. In a meeting with doctors, they were told nothing more could be done and that their eight-year-old son would likely lose his life to cancer. "It was a very difficult situation, it was looking very dire, but at that point, we'd already started preparing for the worst," he told Yahoo News.
Although the eight-year-old is a "mature kid" who "gets all this sort of stuff, his parents believe the news of his death might be "too much for him to deal with". They've decided not to tell him and instead focus on making his remaining time enjoyable. Chandler is now out of the hospital and at home with his family where they hope he'll have one last Christmas. Doctors told them "it's very hard to predict" how much time is left. "It could be the next week, it could be next month, it could be next year," Mr Tran said.
Final wish for family
Mr Tran and his wife have both given up work to help look after Chandler and his younger brother. A friend of theirs launched a GoFundMe page which has so far raised $83,500, surpassing their original target of $75,000. Much of the money will go towards his eventual funeral costs but also building up Chandler's LEGO collection, a hobby he's had since he was about three. Mr Tran said building LEGO is what got his son through the past six months and they hope for it to continue.
The eight-year-old is also learning how to get around his home without his leg. He suffers from regular nose bleeds thanks to his feeding tube and he regularly struggles to breathe. Despite this, his family say he is "such a rock star" and has not complained once about his deteriorating condition.
The Tran family hopes to raise awareness about osteosarcoma and hopes more can be done for other families.
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