Rocked by youngster’s diagnosis, family giving thanks for community support
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

July 7, 2005 - Three days after their son’s second birthday Cyndiee and Larry Fields learned their active toddler could be facing a life-threatening illness — leukemia.

The Fields took Christopher Lee “Critter” to Jordan’s Place Pediatrics on May 16 to determine why the youngster’s lymph nodes appeared swollen, even infected.

“We can’t thank Dr. Virginia Menchaca at Jordan’s Place Pediatrics enough. She’s the one who found it and probably saved his life,” Larry said of the leukemia little Critter affectionately named because of the “cackling critter” sound he made when he laughed or cried was diagnosed with. “If we didn’t go to Jordan’s, I believe he wouldn’t be in such a good state today. They sent us to Dallas [the next day].”

While Cyndiee and Larry awaited lab results at Children’s Hospital in Dallas, they were joined in their vigil by Victoria Smith, who’s son Braydon has been undergoing treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia. She helped ease their fears, according to Larry.

“She made us feel a lot better,” Larry recalled. “We were really scared.”

The family breathed a sigh of relief when doctors informed them that “we got the best case scenario someone with cancer can get.” While Christopher was diagnosed with leukemia, he was found to have acute lymphocytic leukemia, the lesser evil of two types of leukemia, and that other factors to be considered in his treatment were also favorable for a quicker, more positive recovery.

Christopher would undergo 29 days of chemotherapy. As of Wednesday afternoon, his leukemia was in remission, according to his father.

“He has done really well,” Larry said. “We really thought it would be a lot harder than it has been. I’m really proud of Christopher. He’s such a big boy, taking his medicines and the pokes from needles and spinal and bone marrow taps.”

At the beginning of next month, Christopher will undergo three weeks of steroid therapy, which according to his father, the doctor indicated will make the 2-year-old very irritable and hard to deal with.

“It really does a number on him,” Larry said. “We’re really going to need prayers that the [steroids] don’t affect him too badly. The doctor described it like this: ‘Imagine your little boy, if he could, having PMS 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, only PMS times 10.’ He puffs up like a balloon, gets cranky.”

If the steroid treatments have the desired effect, little Critter Fields will continue to receive regular checkups at Children’s Hospital in Dallas for the next three years.

In the meantime, he will continue to monitored closely for any sign of infection, illness or other symptoms which could represent serious dangers to his weakened immune system.

Last week, the Fields had to take Christopher to the Winnsboro hospital after he developed a low grade fever which medical personnel were able to quickly identify as resulting from pneumonia. He was still battling the pneumonia Wednesday afternoon, but his parents were very hopeful.

“We’re expecting Christopher to get better from this and next week be able to go outside and play,” Larry said. “He loves to be outside and play with other people, but he has to stay out of the sun because of the medicines he’s been taking. He has to be walked around in his stroller at the apartment complex after hours. Cindy is a very strong-willed person, and I am stubborn; he’s going to get better.”

Finding fun places to take the adventurous, animal-loving little boy while still limiting his expose to illnesses is another obstacle his parents now face. They can’t take him to a shopping center due the number of people there, nor is he allowed swim in a public pool or lake.

Larry and Cyndiee also have another child, Christopher’s 5-year-old sister Betty Jo, who is getting ready for her first year of school, and are currently looking for a bigger house with a back yard where Christopher can play and “live a normal life as much as possible.”

The Fields credited their family, the community and local churches for their patience, spiritual, emotional and financial support they have provided the family for getting them through the past two months.

“The prayers are more appreciated than anything else,” Cyndiee said. “People are praying for him, a kid they never met. That’s something. Prayers last.

“We give special thanks to all the churches for standing behind us and the prayers from the churches. We’re thankful to the community and everybody, just everyone for their support,” he said.

A fund was established at City National Bank shortly after Christopher’s diagnosis for donations to assist the family with expenses, such as travel to and from doctor visits, and to help offset pay reduction due to lost work days, according to Sylvia Petty who is helping to coordinate a blood drive and hamburger/hot dog fundraiser Friday in the back parking lot of Pizza Hut.

Stewart Regional Blood Center’s mobile unit will be at Pizza Hut Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for blood donations to Christopher Fields’ credit, with any blood donation not used by Fields to benefit other Hopkins County residents, such as Braydon Smith, at Children’s Hospital in Dallas. Those planning to make an appointment to donate blood can call Sylvia Petty at 903-485-2353. Those donating must be at least 17 years old, in good general health, should bring a driver’s license and are asked to eat before donating. All donors will receive a water bottle.

Pizza Hut and Furr’s are also helping to sponsor a hamburger and hot dog fundraiser, which will also be conducted at Pizza Hut, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.

Wooden signs shaped like the tall hat associated with Christopher’s favorite character, “The Cat In The Hat,” are also available for $15 and $25 from Jordan’s Place Pediatrics on Hillcrest Drive, 903-438-1110; Alliance Bank, 100 Jefferson St., 903-885-2187; Guaranty Bond Bank, 919 Gilmer St., 903-885-3193; City National Bank Branch Office, 1133 Mockingbird Lane, 903-885-5432; Community Bank, 1404 South Broadway St., 903-885-9444; or Sylvia Petty, 903-485-2353. Larger signs for display at businesses are also available by request for a $100 donation by contacting Petty.

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