DANVILLE, CA — His eyelashes are starting to grow back and he has peach fuzz growing on his head. After seven months of grueling cancer treatments during seemingly endless hospital stays, a Danville toddler diagnosed with a rare cancer is in remission, but the battle is far from over.
In February, doctors told Benjamin Rutherford’s parents that their son suffered from stage 4 Neuroblastoma and the cancer has metastasized to his bones, bone marrow and throughout his tiny body.
A huge lump in Ben’s body discovered while wrestling with family members changed their lives in a matter of hours. Despite the devastating diagnosis, Ben and his family never gave up hope. Heartbroken and in shock, Shannon Rutherford, Ben’s mother, said that doctors told them Ben had a 30 to 50 percent chance of growing up to be a man.
However, following months of painful treatments, and a battle with insurance, Ben and his mom have gone back and forth to New York to see doctors at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. A battery of excruciating bone marrow tests and scans helped doctors determine that Ben’s little body has responded well in the past seven months.
“What that means is that Ben is essentially in remission, although we now understand that neuroblastoma cells continue to hide in Ben’s body waiting to cause trouble, which is why more treatment is absolutely necessary,” Rutherford said. “Still, this is a huge blessing as many kids with neuroblastoma have a much harder time reaching this milestone, if at all.”
Ben is the youngest of four siblings. Lucie, John and Julia have kept busy with school and sports during Ben’s treatment. Lucie just turned 15 and attends San Ramon Valley High. John is in middle school and Julia is in transitional kindergarten. Shawn holds down the fort at home with the kids and make trips to be with Ben and his mom during treatments as often as possible.
“The life of a cancer family is crazy and unpredictable,” Rutherford told Patch. “It can be scary and sad. But we have been so fortunate to have the love and support of so many friends and family, near and far.”
Local charity Rooms of Hope stepped in to help while Ben was away for treatment. They redecorated all of the bedrooms in the house, including the master suite. Each room was personalized. Rooms of Hope also transformed the family’s yard so they could spend time together relaxing at home.
Their community has rallied for the family of six from the beginning. Family friends have created a GoFundMe page to help the Rutherfords with the costs associated with Ben’s treatment. Click here to donate.
“In honor of childhood cancer awareness month, we have been posting facts related to pediatric cancer and will continue to do so for all of September,” Rutherford said. “Pediatric cancer research is ridiculously underfunded. We are hoping to help bring awareness to as many people as possible as awareness is one step closer to a cure.”
Follow Ben’s journey on the Team Ben Facebook page.
Photos courtesy Shannon Rutherford
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