"Love on Leo: Help Leo Suchomski kick cancer to the curb!"

For: Chris and Meghan Suchomski
Milwaukee, WI
Organizer: Kathleen Gavin
"Love on Leo: Help Leo Suchomski kick cancer to the curb!" (Chris and Meghan Suchomski)
of $40,000 goal.
Raised by 160 donors
43% Complete

The Story

Leo was born in November 2015 to two loving parents and a spunky and adoring big brother. He loves trucks, dogs and baseball. He spends lots of time outdoors, his favorite person in the world is his brother Charlie, and his parents have always taken his and Charlie's health and overall wellness very seriously.

The morning of September 2, Leo's parents noticed a hard mass on the left side of his abdomen during a diaper change. He had been experiencing some unusual renal symptoms during the previous few weeks, and they were waiting on a schedule appointment with a pediatric urologist to determine the cause of the symptoms. Upon noticing the mass, Chris and Meghan called the pediatrician who advised them to take him to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin immediately. After preliminary testing and to the shock of his parents, Leo was diagnosed with what appeared to be a Wilms Tumor, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. The tumor had completely taken over his left kidney. He was admitted to the hospital that day and scans were ordered which confirmed the diagnosis.

On Tuesday, September 5th, Leo underwent a radical nephrectomy to remove the tumor and his entire kidney. The tumor had eaten his kidney and was taking up more than 1/4 of his abdomen. It had grown quickly; his pediatrician thoroughly examined his abdomen two weeks prior to the diagnosis and felt nothing unusual. At the time of surgery, the tumor was 6" long and weighed over 1.25 pounds. Pretty huge for a tiny little guy! The surgery was successful, but during the operation part of the tumor ruptured, spilling cancer cells into his abdominal cavity. Several surrounding lymph nodes and blood vessels were biopsied, confirming that the cancer had metastasized to those areas as well. Thankfully, the pathology report showed favorable histology despite the advanced stage of the cancer, and Leo's prognosis with treatment is strong. He has begun chemotherapy and radiation in hopes of eradicating the cancer cells completely and avoiding a recurrence of the tumor.

Despite the strong prognosis for Leo, more than 95% of childhood cancer survivors will have a chronic health problem and 80% will have severe or life-threatening conditions by the time they're 45 years old. Chemo and radiation have many known long-term side effects including reduced kidney function, heart or lung problems, delayed growth or development, potential infertility and sometimes even secondary cancers later in life. Childhood cancer is truly a lifelong battle, and Leo's life will never be the same because of it.

At this point, Leo's parents are rigorously researching alternative and integrative therapies, supplements and lifestyle choices that will not only help Leo beat the cancer, but that will help him heal from the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation so that he can go on to live a long, happy and healthy life. They are confident and excited to implement the plans they've made with their doctors, but they need your help to do it. A portion of the money raised will go towards helping Leo's parents with various needs during the course of his treatment. The rest will be used to fund the integrative therapies and lifestyle changes they plan to make, and will also support long-term care and healing for Leo. Please continue to check back for updates, and more than anything keep Leo and his family in your prayers during this difficult time. Thank you very much and may God bless you all!

#leothelion #leostrong

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on October 19, 2017


Posted on October 19, 2017

We have had a busy few weeks and I’m finally getting a chance to sit down  and type out an update! Leo is doing well overall and so are we. His  counts are low this week so we are staying home, but he’s otherwise his  sensitive, spunky little self! He is nauseous for about 48 hours after  chemo which is easily controlled by his anti-nausea medication.  Otherwise, he seems to be thriving, all things considered. Thank you,  Jesus! 
The week after I wrote our last update, we spent a lot of time talking to  our research scientist at Mayoclinic about the possibility of using an  antibody drug conjugate to treat Leo’s cancer rather than traditional  chemotherapy, and then the possibility of pulling his most toxic chemo  drug from his regimen. Although there’s promising evidence in favor of  both options, nothing panned out for Leo in the end. We are at peace  with it and on board with our current treatment plan and we’re happy to  have done such extensive research on it. We learned a lot! 
Once all of that was behind us, we started working more closely with our  naturopathic doctor to formulate a plan to help Leo tolerate the effects  of the chemo better, and more importantly, to mitigate the harmful  long-term effects of his treatments. I wanted to outline a few of the  integrative healing therapies we have implemented for those who may be  interested to hear what we are doing. 
The foundation for healing is good nutrition. When Leo has his port placed,  we asked the surgeons to insert a feeding tube at the same time. He  hadn’t been eating anyway and we both had a feeling that he’d eventually  need the tube for regular nourishment, but at that point mostly we  wanted him to have one because we knew that it was the only way we’d be  able to get solid nutrition and supplementation into him on a regular  basis. In retrospect, I’m so glad we asked them to place it when we did. His appetite has been seriously impacted by the chemo and it has been a  huge stress relief for us knowing that we can get nourishment into his  body even with his refusal to eat. One of the hardest parts about the  early weeks was watching him lose weight so quickly. It was so hard to  believe he would be strong enough to beat the cancer when he looked so  frail and weak. He’s still at the very bottom of the growth charts, but  he has stopped losing weight which is awesome. 
Next came the issue of what to feed him. The “organic” formula offered by  the hospital was unsuitable as the first three ingredients were MSG,  sugar and soy protein. A friend recommended a good brand of formula for  tube fed kids called Nourish, and we are happy with the ingredients.  I’ve used it a few times but feel more comfortable making his food  myself. It’s a lot of work but I feel it’s worth it. I’m using organic  grass fed bone broth as the base liquid and basically making puréed  vegetable soup with it. I add coconut milk and kerrygold butter for  extra fat. A lot of times he’ll eat the soup, but if he only takes a few  bites it goes through the tube just fine. We offer whatever we are  eating at each meal and we give him food through his tube after the  meal.
About 3 weeks ago we started juicing 3-4 times a day. The benefit of juicing  for cancer patients is that it gives the body access to a vast amount of  nutrients with very little digestive effort involved. The body can  absorb the nutrients quickly and easily which helps fight cancer and  detox the body from chemo. I make two green juices a day with green and  red lettuce, Romaine, endive, escarole, chard, celery, cucumber and a  Granny Smith apple. It’s actually really good! The other juice we make  twice a day is a carrot, apple and turmeric juice. (Side note-We are  focusing a lot on turmeric because it’s a strong cardio-protectant which  is crucial given the cardiotoxicity of one of his chemo drugs in  particular.) The juices should be consumed within 15 minutes of being  pressed for maximum nutritional value, and he has actually started  drinking them on his own. It’s nice to have one less thing to put  through his tube! We have noticed that his overall color, energy and  disposition is immensely improved with the juicing and although it’s a  lot of work, we really feel that it will make a difference in his health  and well-being. If I had to pick one thing that I think has made the  biggest difference for Leo, juicing would be it. 
We have started driving to a natural spring about 40 minutes from our  house to get water every few weeks. The water is tested regularly so we  know it’s safe and free of pathogens. It’s also perfectly alkaline and  loaded with minerals and sulfur, which is crucial for cellular health.  The best part is, it’s free! It’s also a beautiful and peaceful drive,  especially with the changing colors. 
We are trying to avoid supplementing too much, but there are a few  supplements that we are committed to. The first is a high quality cod  liver oil. Fish oil is so good for brain, heart, bone and tissue health  which is so important for patients undergoing chemo. The second is a  turkey tail mushroom extract, which is widely used in eastern medicine  as an adjunct with chemotherapy. It greatly strengthens the immune  system which helps the immunocompromised patient fight infection and  helps the cancer patient’s immune system fight cancer more effectively.  Our hope is that we can avoid infection and subsequent hospital  admissions during his time on chemo, and immune building is crucial for  that. We’ve also been supplementing with a prune juice concentrate to  replace the miralax that the doctors prescribed, as constipation is a  common side effect of the chemo he’s on. So far it has been working well. 
We  have a few detox protocols in the works right now, but at this point  our plates are pretty full. Between making his food, juicing, running  the demands of the home and spending adequate time with Charlie, we are  maxed. To all of you who have made meals, sent gifts, money and  restaurant cards, had our house cleaned, taken care of Charlie, sent  cards, said prayers, had masses, sent texts and emails and given us  positivity and encouragement—we truly cannot thank you enough. I am  behind on thank-you notes but know that we have been so touched by each  and every one of you. You have each been incredible instruments of God’s  goodness in our lives and we will never forget it!! 
I have come to a place where I am truly grateful for this suffering that  God has allowed. I know that he is bringing good out of this because  I’ve already experienced it. It has been humbling having a child with  cancer since I’ve so long prided myself on doing everything “right” for  his health. Some people in the natural health community have  not-so-subtly suggested that we must have done something wrong if our  one-year-old has cancer. I am learning to accept these comments from truly well-meaning people with humility and grace. I’m a more attentive, patient mother (most of the time!) and I worry a little less about things I can’t control. I don’t feel as rushed or pressured by worldly things. I know that Jesus is close to us, especially now. I recently  started praying a scriptural rosary, and one of the verses in the second sorrowful mystery is, “Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the  sorrows he carried” (Isaiah 53:4) How comforting are these words! Jesus knows about this anguish I am experiencing and kept it and much, much  more in his heart as he suffered the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. He actually suffered and suffers with and for each of us personally. What a sweetness it is to be united to our Lord in  this way and to have Him united to us. We are truly never alone. 
Thank  you all again for all of the love and support! We couldn’t do it  without you all!! Please be assured of our love and prayers for each of  you. 
AMDG, Meghan  

Posted on September 23, 2017

Posted on September 23, 2017

Thank you all so very much for your love and support so far! We have been truly so touched and humbled by everyone's generosity. Today Leo finished his 4th radiation treatment and his 2nd dose of chemo. Only two more radiation treatments and 23 weeks of chemo to go! We will be really happy to be done with radiation on Tuesday. Because he's so young, the treatments require him to be sedated each time so that he doesn't move at all. The sedation requires fasting for several hours beforehand, and though we've been lucky to have early morning appointments, he has been less than thrilled about giving up his early morning nursing marathons! Once we've finished radiation, it'll just be a matter of going into the clinic once a week on Fridays for his regular labs and chemo. 

We feel very grateful to have an excellent team of doctors supporting us on this journey. We have two pediatric oncologists at Children's who have both been excellent so far. We've been working with a naturopath who is also a medical acupuncturist. We are consulting a research doctor who is researching Wilms and analyzing Leo's genetics, lab results and pathology reports to determine if there's anything else we can do to increase the effectiveness of his treatments while minimizing the harmful effects of chemo and radiation. The nurses we've worked with have been nothing short of incredible--I will never forget how well they've cared for us, their medical expertise, level of experience and their compassion. The nurses are truly the heart and soul of CHW and I am forever grateful for them.

Leo's biggest hurdle at the moment is weight gain. Since we were first admitted to the hospital on September 2, he has stopped eating and has dropped from the 30th to the 3rd percentile for weight. On Wednesday, he willingly ate a small plate of food for the first time in 18 days. His appetite has slowly increased since then; I think we've been able to stimulate his appetite with tube feedings and he's starting to remember how delicious food is! I also think his refusal to eat is stress related. He is a sensitive little guy and he has been through so much in the last few weeks. He is starting to relax around his regular nurses and doctors and spending more time at home and less time at the hospital has helped a lot too. We are hoping that this week he'll gain some of the weight back as we start to settle into a more regular routine.

These last three weeks have been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. I have felt things I didn't know I could feel. The initial shock turned into sadness, crippling fear, confusion, guilt, anger at God, anger at myself and anger at the world. There has also been abundant grace, relief, joy, strength, courage, gratitude, hope, surrender and peace the surpasses all understanding. I know that God is with us in this and that He doesn't want this for Leo or for us, but that He has allowed it by His permissive will for a greater purpose. Suffering becomes sweet when we are able to unite it with His cross. 

One of my biggest struggles has been reconciling between the will of God and our will to fight this battle. I can't pretend that I'm in control of my son's life. Nothing has forced me to face that reality more than this diagnosis. I am praying constantly for God to heal my baby, but despite the favorable prognosis I do not know what God wills for Leo and I have struggled to rally facing that realization. What I do know for certain is that whatever the future holds, God will give us the grace we need to endure it. No matter what the outcome is, we will beat this cancer because we will never let it steal our faith or destroy our devotion to Him. 

Many of you have asked how you can help. Aside from financial contributions and prayer, the biggest thing we need is positivity! This is a tumultuous time for us, but we are actively choosing to take on each day with an upbeat, positive attitude and to live a life of joy. I am completely amazed by how resilient little children are in the face of such trauma. If Leo can wake up with a smile each day, then so can we! The uplifting and encouraging messages we've received have helped us more than you know! It really ignites a fire in us and gives us the grit we need to take this thing on. We are so grateful to have so many great cheerleaders on our team!

Thank you all again from the bottom of our hearts.  I wish I could thank each and every one of you in person to tell you how much your support means to us. Perhaps the most beautiful good that God has brought out of this suffering has been the outpouring of love from all of you. Thank you all for being such beautiful instruments of God's love. May He bless you all and shower his blessings upon you!


Meghan and Chris

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