An Oklahoma mother’s instinct led to a grave diagnosis for her son, who has now been battling cancer for most of his young life.
Pierson's mother, Katy, noticed that something was wrong with her child one day after time spent with his father.
"I got him back from his dad and he looked seven months pregnant," she said.
Although Pierson’s father thought nothing was wrong, Katy’s motherly instincts took over.
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"I'm running full tilt to grab my kid, and I stopped front and center and said, 'What's wrong with my kid?'” Katy questioned. “And he said, 'Oh, he's just constipated.”
Once she took Pierson to the doctor, they learned his bloated stomach was due to a rare type of stomach cancer.
"Honestly, I think I was in shock,” Katy said. “I really don't think I quite grasped the gravity of the situation.”
"He has a type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, there are about 350 patients diagnosed with this in the U.S. every year," said Dr. Ashley Baker, one of the doctors on Pierson’s team of specialists.
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According to the American Cancer Society, rhabdomyosarcoma, sometimes called RMS, is a cancer that develops from cells that typically form skeletal muscles, the muscles that control voluntary movement. This type of cancer consists of embryonal cells, so it is much more common in children.
Pierson, now 6, has embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common type of RMS, which is typically diagnosed in children aged 5 and under.
When Pierson was 3 years old, Make-A-Wish Oklahoma threw him a pirate party, complete with pirates, a treasure hunt including a chest of toys and goodies, and a life-sized pirate ship.
“My main goal was to get him something, since he’s so little, that he will remember,” Katy told Make-A-Wish.
He was given a pirate name, a handmade sword, and spent the day playing with his loved ones and new pirate friends.
“When you get a case like Pierson, it makes all of the hours of labor worthwhile,” said Captain Lucan S. Wolfe, pirate and volunteer wish granter with the organization.