Parker Adams is 10. He likes bright colors (especially orange), Butler University basketball, drawing and playing soccer.
He’s also getting pretty good at playing drums.
Today, since Parker can’t bring his drum set into his hospital room, Riley Music Therapist Marial Biard brings in some of her drums. She plays along with Parker while he waits for his next round of chemotherapy to start. “She’s really nice ‘cause she lets me play drums while I’m here,” says Parker. “It takes my mind off things that I don’t like.”
Parker’s parents, Scott and Amy Adams, have been deeply moved by the many ways Riley’s donor-supported Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy program has made their family’s difficult journey easier. In August 2014, when Parker was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, Child Life Specialist Krista Hauswald was by their side helping the couple gently break the news to Parker. “It shakes you up talking about it because they’re so phenomenal,” says Scott of Riley’s Child Life team. “What it does for Parker, what it does for the whole floor of kids – I wish more people knew about it.”
Scott, a teacher at Avon Middle School North, left his second job as Herron High School’s basketball coach to help Parker during his treatment, and Amy is taking a year-long leave from her teaching job. The basketball teams from both Herron H.S. and Butler University rallied behind Parker as he began chemotherapy. Fortunately, it was successful in reducing the tumors that had spread throughout his body. Riley Surgeon-in-Chief Fred Rescorla, M.D., removed much of the remaining tumor tissue in November. Parker spent Christmas at home with his parents and two younger sisters, then returned to Riley for an autologous stem cell transplant in January, followed by radiation and antibody therapy.
“It’s a long road for kids with high-risk neuroblastoma,” explains Riley Oncology Fellow Catherine Long, M.D. Dr. Long is leading an exclusive Riley trial testing a promising drug, olanzapine, which appears to lessen the nausea many patients experience during chemotherapy. Parker is enrolled in the study. “We have kids who have problems with the drugs we use now,” explains Dr. Long. “It would be wonderful to have another option.”
The latest pediatric research is also guiding Parker’s stem cell transplant process, which uses his own pre-harvested cells and an updated two-drug chemotherapy combination. “Riley is the only pediatric stem cell transplant hospital in the state,” explains David Delgado, M.D., Clinical Director of Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant at Riley Hospital. For high-risk patients like Parker, a stem cell transplant offers the best chance of long-term survival. “The benefit is we can use really high doses of chemotherapy that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. The high doses of chemotherapy help eradicate any residual tumor cells but in the process also destroy the healthy bone marrow cells. By giving the patients their own stem cells back, we are able to repopulate their bone marrow so they aren’t at a prolonged risk of infection or bleeding.”
As Parker continues his fight, he admits that he sometimes feels “upset” and “nervous” about his cancer. But he has this advice for other children facing similar battles: “Stay positive. Occupy your mind with things you like, and that’ll help take away things from your mind that are bad.”
He also has a message for all the Riley donors in the community whose gifts have helped bring him state-of-the art cancer care in a comforting setting: “Thanks for all the support to Riley Hospital, because the support they gave to this hospital is helping me.”