HUDSON — For the past three months, Melissa Deschaine has watched her 2-year-old son, Devin, undergo chemotherapy to treat a rare form of cancer. There were batteries of tests and rounds of treatment. And always the reports were the same.
Last week, Devin finished his fourth round of chemotherapy. And this time, the news was different. The cancer in his bone marrow was gone.
Doctors say Devin still has a long journey ahead. His small body still has tumors that will require surgery. Still, his family has renewed hope for the little boy who loves his Curious George doll and cherry Italian ice.
"Test after test, there had been no change," Melissa said. "So the first thing I said to the doctor was, 'Are you serious?' "
Suzanne Belhumeur, Melissa's mother, is surprised and optimistic.
"He has been doing great, and he's so full of energy," she said. "Finally, we're getting some good news."
A few months ago, when Melissa and her mother noticed Devin was limping, they took him to a doctor, who thought he had leukemia. But further testing at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg showed he was in the most severe stage of neuroblastoma.
The disease develops in the body's nerve cells, causing tumors in the spine and adrenal glands.
Only 650 people are diagnosed with it each year. Most are children 5 and younger. In severe cases, the chances of survival are slim.
Tumors had grown in Devin's spine and adrenal gland and spread to his hip bone and bone marrow. Doctors ordered chemotherapy in order to shrink them.
Dr. Damon Reed, Devin's doctor at All Children's, said it's not rare for the disease to disappear from the bone marrow of a patient who has gone through chemotherapy.
"Overall, it's a victory," Reed said, "but there's still a long way to go."
In September, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, which specializes in neuroblastoma, will remove Devin's tumors. Melissa's mother will join her for the trip.
Melissa, 20, will pay for the $35 per night stay at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital. She's hoping that Angel Flight, an organization that flies patients and their families to treatments free of charge, will foot the bill for the flight. Her insurance is paying for Devin's surgery.
But Melissa, of Hudson, who has been on unpaid leave from her job as a nurse, is worried she may have to buy commercial airline tickets for herself, her mom and Devin.
"They (Angel Flight) told us it wouldn't be a problem if they had a spot open," she said. "We still don't know if it's definite, but we're supposed to hear soon."
After a Pasco Times story on Devin ran May 13, Melissa received $13,000 in donations from strangers, and through fundraisers like yard sales, car washes and concerts.
More fundraisers have been planned. Melissa hopes the kindness of strangers lasts until she's able to return to work.
"The donations are holding up for now," she said. "But it's hard, because there's expenses with going to New York."
After his operation, Devin will have more chemotherapy and possibly undergo a bone marrow transplant to remove the cancer from his bones. His tumors could reappear, but his mother is thinking positive thoughts.
"One step at a time," Melissa said, "We're getting there."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.