Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for March 23, 2011
A Profile of Cancer: Carter's Story
Carter Franklin greets his friends at Kanab Elementary School with a wide-toothed smile, freckles on his nose and a sparkle in his eye. He is a stand-out third grade student in Ms. Leslie Glover’s class. Friends and teachers describe him as kind-hearted, respectful and adventurous.
Unfortunately, on Valentine’s Day, the Franklin family was broken-hearted with worry. It was February 14, their eight-year-old son Carter endured his first surgery at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City to treat a rare form of cancer.
Carter has Burkitt’s Lymphoma, an aggressive type of cancer similar to leukemia that attacks the body’s lymphatic system. The malignancy grows rapidly, and a person who appeared in good health a month or six weeks ago can quickly become critically ill.
This is what happened to Carter. He went home sick from school one day, ended up in the hospital that night, and then was quickly sent to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Doctors found a tumor growing inside his stomach and other smaller tumors in his chest cavity. He underwent surgery to check his bone marrow, and to get his first round of chemo.
Doctors explained he might need chemo for a minimum of six months. If the cancer spread into his bones, the chemo will go on for a year.
The Franklin family went into fight mode and prepared to stay in Salt Lake City for a minimum of two weeks, as doctors worked feverishly to assess and treat Carter’s cancer.
While doctors assessed his condition and aggressively worked to treat the cancer, his young body struggled to keep up with the treatment.
Early on there were setbacks. Carter had to be put on dialysis for several days as his small body was trying to fight the cancer, but his kidneys could not keep up. He was moved to ICU, a place that would become familiar to Carter and his family.
Week two came and went, yet Carter was not ready to go home to Kanab. During week three in the hospital he had a seizure, that was followed by an EEG, MRI and new medicine to keep his blood pressure down and help prevent additional seizures.
The MRI confirmed there were not any tumors in Carter’s brain. Carter’s white blood cells were extremely low at this point; these cells are the “fighters.” Doctors gave him a shot to bring those up, but it would take a few days to get them to acceptable levels.
Meanwhile, he tested positive for the flu, had a bad rash on his back, developed bad sores in his mouth from the chemo, and suffered with diarrhea and vomiting.
Three days later, another CT scan showed a sinus infection, a blood clot in his vein and an inflamed appendix. The Franklins wondered how much more their young son’s body could take. It felt like everything that could go wrong did. The only good news – the chemo was vigorously attacking the cancer!
March 5 brought the event that Carter’s parents had prepared him for – his thick blond hair was falling out because of the chemo. A quick haircut reduced the itching on his scalp and he was happy to sport his new haircut.
The following day, Carter’s stomach was distended and painful. X-rays revealed his stomach was full of bile and blood, needing to be pumped out. The fluid was from sores in his mouth and throat caused by the chemo. So began another painful treatment for the side effects of chemo, a necessary evil when treating cancer.
Feelings of helplessness overcame Carter’s parents. Was his condition ever going to improve? How much more would Carter have to endure before he would be freed from this sudden and devastating illness? More prayers and sleepless nights followed for Carter’s mom and dad.
Worry and stress made way to the power of positive thinking and improvements. On March 13, Carter’s white blood cell count was up. He was still very itchy and had a fever, but he was almost off the breathing tube.
On March 15, Carter was moved out of ICU and into his own room on the IMU floor. Stomach pains and some mouth sores made eating next to impossible. For three weeks he has gained his nourishment from a feeding tube.
On March 18, there was a breakthrough. Carter’s white blood cells were up, the rash was almost gone, no fever, no mouth sores and temporarily, no pain medication. For the first time in a month, Carter felt somewhat like his old self!
Taking advantage of his improved health, he ate strawberries and drank two boxes of Gatorade. This is a huge step in the right direction. Carter’s medical treatment was working.
In Carter’s world, school activities, playing with friends in the neighborhood, and visits with grandma and grandpa have all been replaced with medical tests, shots, isolation, painful discomfort and visits with nurses and doctors.
The community has been AMAZING! Phone calls, e-mails, cards, and letters of support and concern have flooded into the hospital. Prayers and positive thoughts have been offered for Carter’s quick and complete recovery. These kind acts have kept Carter’s mother Starla, father Rob, older brother Drake, and extended family going during this very difficult time.
Family, friends, neighbors and strangers have stood by, feeling helpless, watching a child so full of life have his health decline so rapidly. Many have asked what they could do to help.
At this time, Carter’s parents have been away from home and their jobs at Stampin’ Up! for four weeks. While they are fighting for their son’s life, the bills have not stopped coming in and, in fact, they have incurred additional expenses due to travel and living in Salt Lake City. And of course, there are the mounting medical bills.
Friends have established a donation account to help the Franklins at Zions Bank. Those who would like to make a monetary donation, large or small, are encouraged to mail or drop off donations to their local Zions Bank branch. All donations should be labeled “Carter T. Franklin Donation Fund.” All money will be used to help pay for Carter’s medical care and family expenses accrued due to his illness.
Carter loves to hear from his family and friends back home. Cards and letters can be mailed to the Franklin home at 179 E. 405 N. Kanab, UT 84741. Grandma Laurie and Grandpa Buck will make sure he receives them. Grandma and Grandpa Sadlier also visit often and can relay messages and gifts.
Life can change in the blink of an eye; no one ever believes that cancer will affect their family until it happens to them. As Carter’s family, schoolmates and neighbors know, cancer and its devastating effects can become very personal. To learn more about Carter’s current condition, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/carterfranklin, a website where family and friends can stay updated about a loved one’s serious medical condition. Visitors can also leave messages of support.