A Texas 2-year-old who battled cancer and endured multiple rounds of unsuccessful chemotherapy finally has reason to smile again.
Bradley Blevins received a liver transplant this month at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston — a life-saving operation after three rounds of chemotherapy only left him in worse condition. Now the cheerful toddler is home with his family recovering, just in time for Thanksgiving.
"He's a champ," his mother Crystal Blevins, 27, told TODAY, adding that Bradley was discharged on Monday, and got to go home and see his brothers.
"As soon as we pulled up to the driveway, he was laughing and laughing — like, 'I'm home!'" she said. "They were so excited to see each other."
Bradley has an older brother, 3, and an identical twin.
"I call him 'Fat Brad' because he was the chunkier twin," Blevins said. "That's how you could tell them apart."
But this summer, she and her husband noticed Bradley wasn't eating as much as he usually did. He was sluggish and his stomach was protruding — it looked like a basketball, she recalled. Blevins took her son to the family's pediatrician, who immediately sent them to the emergency room. That's where she learned Bradley had hepatoblastoma, a rare type of liver cancer found in children.
"It just kind of hit me," Blevins said. "I wasn't ready to hear the word cancer from an actual person in front of me. At 2 o'clock I had arrived at the ER, by 5 o'clock it was confirmed he had cancer."
Blevins said she remembers thinking, "my kid's too perfect to get cancer." But, she continued, "cancer has no boundaries. It's just going to get you when it wants to, and that's what happened to me and my family. I ended up just grabbing my child and hugging him a lot closer because I knew it was going to be a very tough journey ahead of us. That mama bear instinct kicked in right away."
Bradley underwent three rounds of chemotherapy in as many months, but he continued to get sicker. He lost weight and was in so much pain he wouldn't let his parents hold him. The tumor on his liver only grew, and then more tumors appeared. He needed a transplant.
"My heart sunk," said Blevins, whose family lives in Baytown, Texas. "At this point, I was asking his doctors how much time he had left. He was in so much pain."
Bradley was put on the transplant list on October 10. About a month later, Blevins and her husband got the news they had been praying for: There was a liver available. Dr. John Goss, medical director of transplant services and surgical director of liver transplantation at the hospital, performed the operation.
Now Bradley is at home recovering, although he still has to do at least one more round of chemotherapy to ensure that the cancer is completely gone, Goss told TODAY, adding that Bradley's cancer is very rare, and there are only about 200 cases a year in the United States.
As for Blevins, she's just glad to see her son’s personality and playfulness return. He can’t walk yet due to side effects of the chemotherapy, but she can carry him again, and he grunts and points where he wants to go. “He’s a little boss baby,” she said.
And the whole family is thrilled to be together for the holiday.
"We're going to celebrate at my sister's house and have a very thankful Thanksgiving," Blevins said. "His journey isn't quite over yet, but we're almost there."