Derrick doesn’t hesitate to describe his time at Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville.
“It was miserable,” he smiles, “for the nurses.”
Pranks ranging from a plastic cockroach in the toilet to attacks with squirt guns filled the teen’s stays. His brother, Darren, and sister, Amber, even joined in the fun at times when they visited the hospital, where Derrick was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for osteosarcoma.
The bone-cancer diagnosis had been a surprise to Derrick and his entire family, including his parents, Tim and Michele. The only problem Derrick had was a sore leg – a simple injury, they suspected.
“X-rays showed a suspicious lesion,” remembers his Geisinger-Gray’s Woods pediatrician, Lela Brink, MD. “As soon as I had those results, I made two phone calls: one to the oncology department at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, asking them how they wanted to proceed, and one to the family. The oncologists wanted to see him that night, but I knew I needed to sit down with the family first.”
“Even though she had told me on the phone, it was a lot to take in,” says Derrick’s mom, Michele. “When she told me again (in person), it was like I couldn’t breathe.”
A biopsy at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital confirmed the diagnosis. Derrick woke up from the biopsy and had a medical port in his chest, ready for the first round of chemotherapy. But those treatments couldn’t help the bone in his upper leg, which already had been destroyed by the tumor. So in addition to chemotherapy, Derrick underwent an operation to replace his femur with a metal rod.
Nothing could hold him back, though. When hunting season started a few weeks after the surgery, he was ready. And as time went on, he continued to add golf, basketball and other sports on his to-do list.
That determination became more difficult, and more important, as he grew close to others who were battling cancer at the children’s hospital.
“It seemed like each time you’d meet a good friend, you’d hear about a couple weeks later that they had died,” Derrick says.
“When Derrick was initially diagnosed with cancer, he was very angry, but he went on to fight against cancer at all odds and even became a pillar of strength and hope for other children,” says pediatric oncologist Jagadeesh Ramdas, MD. “One of the most memorable moments was during our Camp Dost memorial service. In front of all the campers, he made a very touching speech about a teenager who had lost her life to cancer – and was even able to console her siblings.”
Now almost 18 years old, Derrick is in remission and continues to build his activity list. He’s a junior firefighter who has big plans for the future. And he knows now, without a doubt, that nothing can hold him back.
Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger provided funds for medical equipment to help doctors treat cancer as well as for items such as recliners in the patients’ rooms. The organization also helps fund Camp Dost, a program of the Ronald McDonald House of Danville that allows children battling cancer to experience all the fun and activities of a typical summer camp.
Meet Derrick: 2010 Miracle Kid
There wasn't much concern when Derrick complained of leg pain - but the discovery of a tumor launched a long, difficult journey for the teen.