Our child’s life is dictated by cancer, with death constantly looming. Six years – this is how long we have been living in fear, pain and despair that rises anew each time we hear that cruel, familiar, despised word: recurrence. Six years of hope brutally destroyed by cancer. With each discharge from the oncology ward, we have hoped in vain that it would be the end... Today, we are there once again, this time in Germany, since there are no more chances for Jędrek in Poland. In order to complete our son’s treatment at the Greifswald clinic, we have to raise €250,000... This is the price of our child’s chance to live, which we have to pay until the end of August – otherwise everything will be lost.
It was not supposed to be this way... We had never expected to hear such a tremendous price, we had never thought we would have to ask for help and raise funds like this... When we were already prepared to leave for Germany and Jędrek had come to terms with the fact he would once again have to fight for his life on the oncological ring, the last tests confirmed what we had been fearing so much. Metastases... The Greifswald clinic had to change the treatment protocol at the last minute. In addition to the originally planned immunotherapy with anti-GD2 antibodies that were supposed to eradicate the cancer, a special chemotherapy has to be performed. Along with the good news – that Jędrek can live and that there is still a chance to defeat the cancer – came the bad news about the price... The Polish National Health Fund refused to cover even the smallest part of the treatment cost, leaving us to fight for our child’s life on our own. This is why we ask for help – we will fight for our son until our last breath and the last drop of our blood.
Jędrzej loves to play chess. He is a master at it, having fought thousands of battles on the chessboard. He learned to play during his long months spent in hospital. Every lonely child trapped within hospital walls looks for friends; Jędrek found his in the chess figures. He is so good he can outplay adult rivals. The most important game of his life, however, will take place outside the chessboard, and his opponent is particularly ruthless and insidious... A malignant neoplasm of the sympathetic nervous system; neuroblastoma. Although we have spoken these words hundreds of times, we only become fully aware of their cruel meaning when we realise how little time we have left to save our child.
How can we summarise our story of all those years of fighting, those nights spent at the hospital, birthdays spent at the oncology ward, operations, tests, the moments when Jędrek was losing hair by the handful, vomiting, staggering, unable to eat or sleep? It all can be seen in his eyes – no wonder they say they are a mirror of the soul and contain all wisdom. Although Jędrzej has the freckled, ruddy face of a ten-year-old, his eyes show that he has suffered more than many adults. He fell ill when he was four years old. The life that ended six years ago, so special in its ordinariness, the life before cancer, now seems so distant that it feels like it belonged to someone else. The cancer returned it twice in happy moments of remission, allowing us to enjoy normal life again, only for it to be brutally taken away.
It all started with a complaint of pain in the back – not even in our worst nightmares did we suspect that it could be cancer... We took Jędrek to several pediatricians and had him undergo some suggested tests – however, none of the doctors even thought of testing Jędrek for cancer. When our son got a fever and began feeling unwell, irritated and weak, we took him to hospital – and stayed there... We had thought it would be just an hour-long test. It was the last day of April of 2011. We returned home in July 2012, after 9 cycles of chemotherapy, a surgery, mega chemo, autotransplantation and light therapy. An X-ray showed a huge dark mass in the mediastinum. An MRI confirmed that it was a tumour... Stage IV neuroblastoma. A cancer with a very violent course that occurs only in children, as if purposefully choosing the weakest victims: half of the patients are not even two years old. When your child becomes a patient of the oncology ward, not only your world changes – everything changes. All we had been reading about – the terrified eyes of a child receiving an IV infusion at the oncology ward; the pain so horrible you can physically feel it taking your breath away – became our life and reality overnight. An adult should be strong, but in the face of the terrible disease that is cancer – your own child’s cancer – sometimes you have no more strength, no more tears to cry.
Since the moment of Jędrek’s diagnosis, fear has been an integral part of our lives. There is, however, another side to fear: hope. After the treatment was finished, we all hoped everything would be okay from that point. We had been through a nightmare and Jędrzej had suffered more than any child ever should – but we hoped it would be the end of the story.
Our happiness did not even last a year. Our plans for the future, dreams, peace... it all disappeared. A follow-up test showed new changes. The cancer was back.
The first time we found out Jędrek was ill, our world fell apart and we were dying of fear. The second time, we were even more scared. We knew recurrent cancers were much harder to treat. This time, it was no longer a skirmish, but a true battlefield. Jędrek received the most powerful chemotherapy. He underwent three operations, a radioactive isotope therapy and two stem cell transplants that were meant to give him strength before the most important treatment: the bone marrow transplant. I, his father, was the donor. We would give anything for Jędrek to defeat his cancer and come back to health. Nothing matters to us anymore other than his life...
With the transplant, Jędrek was supposed to receive a new life. While he did, the complications were horrible. Skin problems, a depleted immune system, a ruined digestive system, viruses... Our son, however, is incredibly strong. The treatment began in April 2013 and lasted until July 2015. The illness took 2 years of his life... However, it did not take away his beaming smile and faith that everything will be fine. In 2015, the longed-for normalcy returned. Everything that was part of other children’s daily lives – sitting in a classroom instead of lying in a hospital bed, friends instead of doctors, extracurricular activities instead of medical tests – was completely new to Jędrzej. For the first time, he had the opportunity to get to know everything the disease had brutally taken away from him. For a year and a half, he was a healthy, happy boy who had managed to forget the hospital, the excruciating treatment and the cancer.
The cancer, however, did not forget about him.
A change was found at the end of 2016, during a routine check-up. A tumour above the clavicle. Inoperable.
We thought treatment would begin immediately. But doctors, upon hearing that Jędrzej had undergone a transplant and had a second recurrence of neuroblastoma, were helpless. Hospitals in Poland and abroad were refusing treatment, taking away what was left of our hopes. It is hard to even describe what we were feeling. But not for a single moment did we accept the thought that this was the end. Finally, Jędrek underwent light therapy and several cycles of chemotherapy in Poland. This stopped the aggressive development of the disease. Jędrek had won the battle, but not the war.
This is when a response came from Greifswald, from one of the few clinics treating children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Jędrek was qualified for immunotherapy – treatment with anti-GD2 antibodies that should eradicate the remaining cancer cells. We managed to raise the amount needed to pay for the treatment. The metastases discovered at the last moment almost took our hope away... However, we have been given a chance, one last chance. The doctors in Greifswald decided that in addition to the antibodies, Jędrek would receive a special chemotherapy. The cost of the treatment, however, more than doubled. This time, we have no one else to turn to, which is why we are asking for your help.
The clinic has agreed to begin the treatment even though it has not yet received the full amount. We could not have waited a day longer, since the cancer does not wait either... We have come to Greifswald and Jędrek has begun receiving the antibodies. He has just begun his second cycle out of six. However, we have a deadline: we have to pay for Jędrek’s full treatment until the end of August... Otherwise, the treatment will be stopped and our hopes of saving our son’s life will be forever lost.
We have less than a month, €250,000 to raise and only one chance to save our child’s life. We have to do it. We’re not considering any other option... He is our only son! In spite of everything, Jędrek is fighting for each next day of his life. We believe that he can do it, that it’s the beginning of the end; that soon he will checkmate his disease. We only ask for one thing: help him win... Save him.