You know, we never know what journey lays ahead of us sometimes, but if I may share the journey of Eric Merkley. He is my "baby"... My Big baby :). Eric is 17 years old, 6 feet 4, attending Salem Hills High school, honor roll student, works as a projectionist and cashier at Stadium Cinemas in Payson, Utah, and playing of the Varsity High school basketball team for Salem Hills. Basketball has been his life for many years. Eric played Football for a couple of years but decided he preferred playing basketball instead, so he was very focused on practicing. He asked the High school coach Jimmy DeGraffenried while still in the 8th grade, if he could practice with the high school team.
He was very determined to learn what he could from Coach DeGraffenried. When he made the team as a freshman, he felt very honored and his love for the game just increased.
Fast Forward to the Salem Hills basketball season of 2010/2011...
Eric started this season with a lot of determination to make this season a very successful year. He wanted to make sure that his contribution would help win as many games possible.
In November he mentioned that the high school trainer, Lacy suggested that he needed to go to a physical therapist, to help with the swelling in his shin. This was the first I heard of his "new" injury. During the first couple of games, I could tell that his leg was really hurting. We made an appointment with Lynn Adams where he was treated for a muscle strain. After a couple of treatments, he regained some strength back in his foot and the swelling appeared to be receding.
He proceeded playing on his "injured" leg and as time went by, the swelling not only came back, but his leg had a large knot on the side, right below his left knee. After a few more treatments with Lynn Adams, a X-ray was taken to find out why the injury was not healing like it should. The X-ray showed that he may have a possible fractured Fibula, and was sent to Dr. Weenig the next morning. Eric's biggest concern was to make sure that he could finish out this season... to do what ever it takes, so he could keep playing. Dr Weening took another X-ray of his leg and came back with the most frightening words anyone hopes they never hear.
"This is not a fracture, but a tumor." My heart stopped, and my thoughts were to keep it together for Eric. After the doctor left, Eric came over to me and gave me a hug and we both kept saying, it's going to be okay, we will get though this as I broke down. They took him over to have an MRI done on his leg and Huntsman Cancer was contacted and consulted. While we were looking at the MRI and the doctor stepped out to see if Dr. Randall could squeeze Eric in on his next Clinical, Eric scrolled through the images and pointed out that he did have muscles in his legs (because he is teased for his chicken legs)... Upon which Todd (my husband) said, "No I see a chicken and look that is a chicken egg."
Eric told his team mates that night that he has a tumor in his leg and the support from his team was amazing. They rallied around him and had a team prayer.
The next night at the game against Uintah, as you walked into the auditorium, the support was everywhere with signs saying "We love you Eric and hundreds of people walking around with these amazing t-shirst with "Merk" "5" on them. The cheerleaders had shirts that said "we love Eric". The drill team had shirts that had big glittery #5's on them. It was a very emotional night as Jake Skinner tipped the ball to Eric for the last time. And when Eric had his hands on the ball, they called a time out where the coach came and gave him a signed ball from his team. The following newspaper article was written about the event...
Tuesday January 25, we met with Eric's new team of doctors. Here is the email sent to family and friends who were anxiously waiting for news.
Well here we go. First good news is that it is not in his chest, which it is typically the first place it will head...after the bone. Dr Randall says it could an infection/cyst, benign tumor or cancerous. He is highly suspicious that it is cancerous, but hopes he is wrong. He will have a biopsy on thursday where they determine that status. They will also put a central line while he is asleep, for chemo. A bone scan is also schedule, but likely first of next week. Just to make sure that the rest of his bones are healthy. He warned us once again not to google the info because it is extreme...I didn't listen last time and paid with a high anxiety scare fest. Eric's attitude is really good and we really like this doc. We are waiting for a doc that specializes with blood and bone marrow cancers. Sounds like more because of the possible chemo. I am sure he will have some blood tests today then will be done... Then we wait for the next step :)
Then came the bone biopsy. A moment we were dreading, but axious for answers...
Thurs January 27
Well after a six hour wait to go back for the surgery, Eric was definitely ready to get this over with... So was I good or bad...
Well it is osteosarcoma. It is fast growing, but pretty sure it is contained to the one spot. We will find out for sure on mon when they do the bone scan. Tues we come back up for a base line test, heart,ears, etc so we know where we are starting and to make sure the chemo is not causing damage.
Dr Randall said it will be a very long and hard year, but majority of the kids he has treated has came through with flying colors. And Eric will be one of them.
The key is he is getting the best help now. We have been very blessed for the team that is going to get him healthy and playing ball again.
I can not thank everyone enough for all your love and support to this point and this coming year. We have drawn a lot of strength from you and will be eternally grateful!
The pictures shown of Eric on the sidelines and leg bandaged up were taken Friday night January 28.
Monday we went in for more doctor appointments and scan...
Today has been a day of a lot of testing, but we are in great hands and spirits. Dr Randall confirmed the lab results as being osteosarcoma.
The bone scan came back with a spot on his tail bone, but where he has taken many charges at basketball we are thinking it is more of an injury, than another spot. But to be sure we need to come back tomorrow for an MRI on his tail bone and small back. They said it is highly unlikely that a spot would appear in another bone before his lungs. But to be safe and before they will schedule chemo, they have to make sure it is from one of those over zealous basketball players who was trying to draw a foul. :)
If everything checks out he will start chemo on monday. He will be admitted for at least 3 days. He will be able to have visitors who are healthy. Then he will be home for 2 1/2 weeks. Then he will be admitted for 4 days and home 3 days then we start all over again. We are going to talk to the school counselors about home school/packets or taking the term off....
The first treatment contains the "red devil" that makes him lose his hair. He has mentioned that he hopes that his coaches don't shave their heads in his behalf, because as he puts it they would look pretty silly, except for Bartin... Who already is a chrome dome :).
When we find out more I will pass on
Thanks again for all your help and love
We just got the all clear sign. The hot spots on his back is from an old injury. We could have told them that... Oh wait we did. :) So I will find out later today when he will need to be at the hospital on Monday. I am not sure if they will limit the size of visitors in one group. They did say that the hospital is very cautious this time of year. So Monday night we will have a better idea on the rules and flow of things.
Eric is to start Chemo on Monday afternoon... did I mention that he had Chemo postposed because he had a date to the Jazz game (lower bowl tickets) on Saturday night and of course you can't miss the Superbowl party!
As hard as it is to think about putting your child through Chemothearpy, and to watch him suffer, I want him to regain his health and strength. He is an amazing young man with so much potential, yes I am a very proud mom. But he will overcome this and be an example to others. Please keep him in your prayers and we will keep you posted on his recovery.
On January 27, 2011 Eric Merkley was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. An aggressive cancer that we hope and the doctors to this point seem confident that is contained to one spot on his leg. Prognosis is good. Treatments and recovery will be long and painful.