Sports, playing the trumpet, Boy Scouts and generally being with other people are all things that any 13 year-old boy would enjoy, especially Gretna’s Colton Prince. Unfortunately, this and more was suddenly put on hold on Nov. 16 last year.
It was on this day that Colton and his family found he had Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendric Cell Neoplasm, a rare form of cancer that has characteristics of both Lymphoma and Leukemia.
“It started when I noticed this kind of faint bruise on his face,” said Tricia Prince, Colton’s mother.
She said the bruise appeared some time last May and that he visited the doctor to have it checked. After initial testing, it was thought to be a hemangioma — a benign and generally self-involuting tumor.
“We didn’t feel comfortable with that diagnosis,” Prince said.
Eventually the family went to a plastic surgeon to have it removed as Colton was uncomfortable with the bruised area. The surgeon also ran an MRI scan, and again it came back as nothing serious. The surgeon still had concerns, Prince said.
So Colton’s surgery was moved up to Nov. 16 instead of a December date to have the bump removed.
“As soon as he opened it up, he knew it was cancer,” Prince said.
She said while she does not have the exact statistics and has heard many differing reports, this condition is rare.
“There’s only been maybe a dozen cases of children having this cancer,” she said.
Colton then went to the Omaha Children’s Hospital, where his case was sent throughout the world in search for a treatment plan.
“It came up that there was no place to send him, there is no one who is an expert in this type of cancer,” Prince said.
Fortunately, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., had a general idea for a difficult, five-phase chemotherapy plan.
Unable to use radiation due to the systemic nature of the cancer, the chemo is administered through a control line port in Colton’s chest. Prince said that he is currently on phase three, and half way through the first year, which is set to be completed some time this fall.
“It’s hard to say when we’ll be done with it,” she said.
After this five-phase track, Colton will have to take daily oral chemotherapy for two to three years. Beyond that, Prince said, his treatment is uncertain.
She said the treatment was helping and that Colton was doing well. Within the first week of the therapy, other lumps found on Colton’s chest disappeared and cancer cells found within his bone marrow went into remission, or inactivity.
Prince also said that despite initial disappointment and sadness, her son accepted that this is what he had to do to get healthy again and has handled it very well.
“His spirits are really good,” she said.
As a seventh grader at Gretna Middle School who was involved in band and Boy Scouts, he struggles with missing his friends and doing what he used to be able to do. Throughout the winter months he did get the chance to have visitors, though it was difficult given the typical flu season.
Prince said her son has been able to keep up with his school work through working from home and regularly scheduled meeting with his teachers.
Prince said that her husband Patrick, along with Colton and his two younger brothers Caleb and Caden, have found that the best thing they have done throughout this time is to maintain a positive attitude.
“The first few weeks after this (diagnosis) were so dark,” she said.
The family then had the choice to be overwhelmed by this struggle or face it with optimism and hope.
“I don’t know how I could go day-to-day without making that choice to be positive,” Prince said.
She said the family did learn to have open discussions in regards to Colton’s condition, especially with his younger brothers being ages 9 and 7 years-old and not fully comprehending things at first.
“Those are difficult moments to try and work through,” she said.
As for Colton himself, he said that he remains hopeful throughout this difficult process.
“In a situation like this, you have to stay positive,” Colton said. “You just gotta hope.”
Joining the Prince family in this feeling of hope is Colton’s Crew, a group dedicated to helping the family in their time of need, and one such way to help is an upcoming benefit event.
The day-long event will take place on April 20 at the Gretna American Legion, 11690 South 216th Street, and runs from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Meant to be a day for the whole family, there will be a kids zone complete with games, tattoos and a bounce house from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; a car show from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a $10 entry fee for any and all cars; a silent auction from 3 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.; and a live auction from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There will also be a $5 meal from We’ll Smoke You BBQ and desserts from Delectable’s from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as well as a performance by the local Something Else Band from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Prince said she encourages everyone to come out to the event and that she and her family have greatly appreciated the support found from the community already.
“We’ve lived here for 10 years, but the amount of support we’ve had just blows your mind,” she said.
The family has received meals, help keeping the younger two boys involved in their activities and general support.
“You don’t really know until something happens just how people will show up for you,” she said.