INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A little boy is fighting for his life after he was diagnosed with cancer last March.
Charles Lane is back in the hospital for three stem-cell transplants after undergoing brain surgery and chemotherapy. He will likely remain at Riley Hospital for Children for months to come.
Patrick and Kate Lane told CBS4 their son was an average toddler. In March, they noticed he wasn’t feeling well.
“He started showing signs of, you know, what you would think would be a stomach bug” Kate said. “Kid’s sick, no big deal.”
But after they visited seven doctors and went to the emergency room multiple times within one month, the Lanes knew it was something much more serious.
“It was March 25th, that weekend, where he started complaining his legs were hurting a little bit,” Patrick recalled. “It was actually that weekend we had a bunch of snow in March. We were outside playing and he refused to walk. That weekend, he started losing his balance.”
The Lanes rushed Charles to the hospital. The doctors ran some tests and later confirmed Charles had medulloblastoma, an aggressive and cancerous tumor in his brain. It had already spread. Charles had four more tumors on his spinal cord.
“It was a very traumatic, shocking moment,” Kate said. “It’s kind of like you’re filled with darkness.”
Doctors rushed Charlie in for a seven-hour brain surgery. They removed as much of the brain tumor as they could. Afterward, the little boy was unresponsive.
“We didn’t know what the future looked like,” Patrick told CBS4.
Kate remembers her son being in the intensive care unit. He couldn’t lift his head and was hooked up to a lot of machines.
“He wasn’t speaking to us at all or communicating with us, and he is a very verbal toddler,” she said.
The Lanes could tell Charlie was in pain, too. It was difficult for him to participate in physical and occupational therapy.
That’s when one of Riley’s two music therapists paid Charlie a visit.
“Music therapy is a supportive service,” Caitlin Krater explained.
Krater asked what Charlie’s favorite songs were and started playing them. She said she immediately saw his eyes flutter.
“I could see his eyes light up. I could see he was following along with me. He knew all the words, he knew what was coming next,” she remembered.
Because Charlie couldn’t move, reach or grasp, Krater had to be patient with the process. She used the music therapy to help him wake up. Eventually, with the help of his mom, he was able to hold some of the musical instruments and play along.
“We were building those skills,” Krater said.
Krater used music therapy to get Charlie stronger physically and vocally.
“We could intertwine it with all the other therapies to make it more fun because he was in so much pain,” Kate said.
One by one, Charlie started talking and moving again. He was eventually released from the hospital. He underwent five months of chemotherapy treatments.
“He’ll ask for music, he’ll ask for me when he is really sick and not feeling well because what he knows is that it makes him feel better,” Krater said.
CBS4 sat in on a music therapy session. Charlie appeared as a typical 3-year old, beating the drums as loud as he could and screaming “Lion King” songs at the top of his lungs.
“Watching his video when we put it all together and remembering when I first met him in April to see him now saying full sentences, performing and really getting into the music is just something that makes me realize this is what I should do,” Krater said as she got emotional. “To see him benefiting from that? I can’t ask for anything else.”
Charlie’s neuro-oncologist, Doctor Alex Lion, is optimistic about Charlie’s recovery but told CBS4 that Charlie has a tough road ahead of him. Brain tumors are becoming the number one cause of cancer death in children.
“He is doing great. The tumor has responded greatly, it’s almost completely gone as far as we can tell,” Dr. Lion explained. “But he stands a high risk of it reoccurring. Somewhere even up to 50 to 70 percent of it, reoccurring within five years.”
“We’re still in the thick of it,” Kate said. “We need to celebrate all the victories that we can.”