When Shawn Heuring wants to indulge his love for sports, he simply opens the door and heads to his back yard.
Shawn was diagnosed with leukemia last year, but he considers himself one of the luckiest 13-year-olds around when he’s out putting on his personal 9-hole mini golf course, which was provided by Make-A-Wish Foundation and includes a loop-de-loop, light tower and wishing well.
Something was Wrong
When Shawn’s parents noticed bruises on his knees that would not go away last summer, his mother, Angela, started researching the symptoms on the Internet. Leukemia showed up as a possible cause.
The family’s doctor near their hometown of Kelso, Mo., discovered that Shawn had unusually low blood counts, and recommended a bone marrow test to find out what was wrong.
“We were familiar with Cardinal Glennon from seeing the orthopaedic doctors, and we could have done Shawn’s bone marrow testing in Cape Girardeau, but we felt comfortable here,” Angela Heuring said.
On Aug. 12, 2005, one week before Shawn started seventh grade, doctors at Cardinal Glennon did a bone marrow biopsy and found Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia.
“I was shocked,” Shawn said. “It was kind of sad.”
Fortunately, Shawn went into remission within a couple of weeks of starting chemotherapy.
“Shawn has done awesome,” said pediatric oncologist Chris Hugge, MD. “He’s flown through chemotherapy, and he’s done everything right so far.”
Getting Back to Normal
Shawn spent last year in home school, but now he’s back with his friends and teachers for 8th grade, where he was elected Student Council president and vice president of Beta community service club.
He still visits Glennon once a month for chemotherapy, spinal taps and blood counts, and takes medicine daily at home, but Dr. Hugge expects Shawn will finish treatment in about two years.
“When you think about leukemia, you think the worst,” said Shawn’s father, Larry. “But thanks to modern medicine, the survival rate is so much better. The doctors and nurses at Cardinal Glennon have helped us along, and they always have a positive outlook.
“People say there aren’t any good people left in the world, but that’s crazy. The outpouring of care we’ve received, some of it from perfect strangers, has shown us otherwise.”