When Andre Beasley was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and his kidney was removed, doctors told him he had a "99.9 percent" chance that the cancer was removed and that he had a clean bill of health.
He was in fifth grade then. Last fall, the cancer was found again, this time in a mass on the outer wall of his lungs, near his heart. After a rigorous course of chemotherapy and radiation, Andre, now 14, was given a clean bill of health and was able to start his freshman year at Somerset High School this fall without any restrictions.
The adventure for Andre and his family started on Friday the 13th in September 2013. He woke up that morning with a lump in his stomach. Andre's mom, Amy, said she thought it was a hernia.
"Cancer was never on my radar. Nobody on either side of our family has cancer," she said.
The nurse practitioner had stronger suspicions. They scheduled a CT scan for the next day. Amy was pulling up to the high school football game at the school when her phone rang. With that phone call she realized, it's never a good thing when you hear from doctors within hours of having a CT scan.
"I was completely surprised. They said he had a softball-sized tumor on his kidney," she recalled.
The doctors said it was a Wilms Tumor, which begins on kidneys. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the most common type of kidney cancer in children. Most Wilms Tumors are unilateral, meaning they usually affect one kidney, while leaving the other healthy.
Andre did a full course of outpatient chemotherapy and was told about the 99.9 percent cure rate for Wilms Tumors.
"We fell into a false sense of security," Amy said.
Andre was still undergoing x-rays every three months. In August 2016, his x-ray was clean. But a month later, he began to experience back pain. Amy took him to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, where his oncologist ordered scans for his back pain. A CT scan showed a tumor where the heart, aorta and lungs converge in his chest. While the doctor couldn't explain medically why he included Andre's chest in the order for scans of his back, the Beasley family was glad he did.
"It was only because of the CT scan of his chest that they found the new tumor," Amy said.
Doctors opted to remove the tumor thoraspocially since they weren't sure it was related to Andre's prior tumor. They didn't want to cut open Andre's chest unnecessarily. However, in the process, the tumor burst, contaminating his chest with cancerous cells.
"They did extra radiation of the area in hopes of killing any cells left in the wake of the surgery. They knew these were cells from his original cancer," Amy said.
The surgery took place on Oct. 27, 2016, with the pathology results coming back the next day diagnosing Stage 4 Wilms Tumor. Andre started inpatient chemotherapy days later on Nov. 1. From then until April 26, Andre was in the hospital for chemotherapy every three weeks ranging from three to five days per stay—depending on the chemo regimen he was receiving.
Like his older siblings, Andre is heavily involved in baseball. In both of his bouts with cancer, Andre used his love for baseball to get through the difficult times in his cancer recovery.
"He was so bound and determined to get back on May 2, to be on the field for the first practice," Amy said as she worked to hold back tears. "He went out and played like any other kid."
His teammates knew what Andre went through to be back on the field.
"His teammates rallied around him," Amy said.
In both of his recoveries, Andre lost his hair. Amy laughed that he was most pleased that his hair had fully grown back by the end of his baseball season this summer.
Amy said the two recoveries were vastly different. Almost immediately after the first diagnosis, the doctors told Andre about the 99.9 percent cure rate. That was all the encouragement he needed and he attacked it with no fear.
He was struck much harder by the second diagnosis.
"He point blank asked the doctor what his prognosis rate was this time," Amy said through a trembling voice. The doctor asked him to give her a few hours to do her research so she could give him an honest answer—he was relieved when she came back and told him that it was still greater than 80 percent. "Once he heard that he went back into the 'let's kick this' attitude," she said with a proud smile breaking through.
Through his two battles with cancer, Andre spent most of his fifth grade and eighth grade years away from school. He was able to maintain his studies, with his teachers supplying his lessons and school assignments online.
"Academically he's right there. I feel fortunate he's kept up in the important things," Amy said, crediting his teachers with making sure his educational needs were met, even when there were stretches through the treatment that he didn't have the strength for studying.
One of the things that helped buoy Andre's spirits through his first round of treatment was a family trip that was arranged by Make-A-Wish of Wisconsin. At the age of 10 Andre was a fan of the Geronimo Stilton book series which he listened to on tape while going through chemotherapy the first time. These books led to Andre being keenly interested in Greece. When they were contacted by Make-A-Wish, Andre's initial hope was a trip to Medieval Times—or a cruise to Greece. His Make-A-Wish "Wish Granters" recommended he wish for the bigger wish that his parents were less likely to ever afford on their own. He was astounded when they told him they could make it happen, not just for Andre but for all seven members of his family. It was one of more than 500 wishes that Make-A-Wish Wisconsin granted that year.
"I had no idea how great that organization really was," Amy said. "I had no idea they granted that many wishes in a year."
The trip started with the family being flown to Venice, before spending a week in Greece. Amy said the trip was a major part of Andre's recovery, because it gave him something positive to focus on as he went through his treatment.
The best news of the story came from Andre's most recent scans in August.
"So far the scans are clear," Amy said.
Andre will continue to undergo scans every three months to make sure there are no more recurrences of the cancer.
Here is a link to Andre's page on CaringBridge: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/andrebeasley