5-Year-Old South Jersey Cancer Survivor Celebrates Life and National Honor
Life is a celebration for Danny Feltwell. And, why not? After all, the 5-year-old Margate boy, who graduates from kindergarten this week, and likes fishing, country music and playing baseball, has a good life. But mostly, the celebration is because Danny has a life at all.
When I first wrote about Danny Feltwell in January 2012, 3-year-old Danny was already a year in to an aggressive chemotherapy treatment plan to combat T-cell lymphoblastic non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He spent most of his first year fighting the cancer hospitalized due to complications from the chemotherapy.
After hearing Danny’s story at the Margate New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge in 2012, I tracked down his father and developed a friendship and a deep admiration for a man in a really tough situation.
Dan Feltwell is a single parent and Danny’s sole caregiver. Dan had taken a leave of absence from his job to care for Danny. The family has dealt with enormous difficulties, financially and emotionally.
Over the next 18 months, I offered frequent updates on Danny’s struggle with his cancer, and his more immediate struggle with his cancer treatment. Before I met the Feltwells, I never realized that there was no cancer medicine designed to treat adolescents, and the adult dose Danny was forced to take was having a devastating impact on him.
When Danny Feltwell finally reached the end of his treatment and was declared cancer-free, the kindest thing I could think of to reward him was to leave him alone, to be a normal boy and do all the things kids do.
For that reason, I haven’t written about Danny in almost two years. But I kept tabs on his progress and I was always happy to see Dan or Danny around town enjoying life.
As I considered doing an update on Danny two years after he went into remission, another reason came up to write about Danny again. He will be honored by a team of bike riders completing a cross-country ride to remember another little boy’s who fought and lost his battle with cancer. “Team Will” plans to salute Danny Feltwell on the Margate beach the day they finish their trek.
I am thrilled to have asked by Dan Feltwell to speak about Danny’s story at that ceremony and I invite you to attend Tuesday, July 1st at 11am in front of Lucy the Elephant, on the Benson Avenue Beach in Margate!
Here is an update on Danny’s progress over the last two years and the Team Will Award from his father….
I wanted to give you an update on Danny and say hello to you. First I wanted to also thank you for your never ending support and compassion you’ve shown my son and I since the beginning of our fight against childhood cancers.
Back in January of 2013 Danny had a very difficult time with his Treatment, 2 years of chemotherapy really taken a toll on his little body. He was hospitalized frequently over his last year of treatment because of the severe side effects he presented. On February 14, 2013 Danny could no longer tolerate a certain chemotherapeutic drug called Vincristine.
Early in treatment Danny needed to receive a reduced dosage of Vincristine and skip this chemotherapy 3 months at a time twice because of the severe side effects. So on February 14th of that year Danny’s primary care oncologist gave Danny his very last dose of Vincristine (Chemotherapy) at 25% of full dose. Within days Danny became hospitalized again because of the very severe side effects, his colon and intestinal tract became paralyzed and he could not digest solid foods.
Most people do not realize that we give our children fighting cancer old, outdated and very toxic chemotherapies derived for adults. But this is our only option, we must give our children very toxic treatments because there was no other way to save my sons life. You must understand that there is a disproportionate focus between researching childhood cancers and adult cancers. The National Cancer Institute only allocates 4% of our Govt. Funded Cancer Research Dollars toward Childhood Cancers, and there are 12 major types of childhood cancers which together have over 100 subtypes of childhood cancers.
Danny finished his treatment, or all other chemotherapies, on April 19th, 2013 with a grand total of 30 months of receiving chemotherapy (13 different types of chemotherapydDrugs) and spending just about 17 of those months in the hospital directly related to the severe side effects he presented. I always tried to treat my son as if he were no different than other children his age, but as you well know he was different and that was difficult to explain to my young son. Danny was just 27 months old on the day of his diagnosis with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare and very aggressive subtype of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
It had taken almost a year and a half after Danny stopped receiving Vincristine for his side effects to subside. And now that Danny is 14 months post-treatment you would never know he had such a difficult journey through childhood cancer. Today my beautiful little boy has no evidence of disease and his cancer is in full remission.
To watch him run and play as an almost 6 year old little boy is truly amazing. You would never know if you were to see him today, we have been truly blessed but we continue to fight childhood cancers in any way we can. I simply cannot forget where we were and how far we have come. So we support our reputable childhood cancer foundations and help spread Awareness of the leading cause of death of our children in America by disease.
Danny still has his love of Country Music and even met two of his most favorite Country Music Stars, Eric Church and Kacey Musgraves. I’ve taken Danny to a few concerts and to see him dance and sing is inspiring, I have a video if you would like to see it. Danny played on his first Soccer Team and is now just finishing his first year of T-ball here in Margate. On June 25th Danny will also graduate from kindergarten at The Ross Elementary School. There were days I thought I would never see my beautiful little boy experience any of this and now we experience many “firsts” together.
Just a few short weeks ago I was approached by the Margate Recreation Department about an endeavor that will take place to honor my son Danny and another childhood cancer survivor from San Francisco, Ca., Kaden.
We like to call all of other children affected by Childhood Cancers Heroes. Team Will is a charity from California who’s name sake passed away from childhood cancer in 2004. Since then Team Will has been honoring our Heroes, spreading awareness of childhood cancers and raising funds for their Family Assistance Program by bicycling across the country. Team Will left SanFrancisco, Ca. on June 21st and on their cross country trek they will stop at 18 different children’s hospitals delivering thousands of cards made by Children to our Childhood Cancer Heroes.
Team Will’s journey will take 11 days to reach our home town of Margate City, NJ with a stop on June 30th at Nemours AI duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. Nemours is Danny’s treating hospital and they are welcoming Team Will in a big way also.
Danny and I can hardly wait for Team Will’s arrival on July 1st, they will be bringing a gift for Danny made by Kaden and taking back a gift made by Danny for Kaden. This bridging of our two coast and starting a friendship between two Childhood Cancer Heroes is only second to their compassion and will to fight against childhood cancers. I believe in what Team Will stands for, I believe in what Team Will does for our children and their families so I love to seeing our beautiful beach community stand up and support Team Will also.
Thank you very much Eddie, I am proud to call you my friend.
Danny’s Dad, Dan Feltwell