On March 2, 2012 Dashiell was diagnosed with a rare cancerous liver tumor called Hepatoblastoma. After several months of multiple chemo therapy drugs, his tumor was not shrinking and with a rise in his AFP level (the marker that determines tumor activity) he underwent a trisegmentectomy to remove it. Despite its success, he still fell into a high-risk category for recurrence based on his chemo-resistance, so we took his treatment to the world's leading doctors for this type of cancer at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
He was prescribed a treatment plan that no other child was on in the nation (besides clinical trials). On the first day on his last round his AFP was found to have risen substantially. Two new tumors were found in his liver and he was immediately placed on the transplant list. Three excruciating weeks later the call came and he took a private jet from Iowa to Ohio. The surgery was without complications. He spent two weeks inpatient and five weeks at the local Ronald McDonald House recuperating. Going home to his brothers and sweet doggie Cider made him so happy, he did a somersault on the living room floor!
During his next visit the unthinkable happened...a nodule was found in his lung during a routine CT scan. The cancer had metastasized. One week later that too was successfully removed and he was on the road back to Iowa within 36hrs. The doctors felt he was at even greater risk now as every time the cancer recurred he was on a more and more potent chemo med.
The next CT scan brought worse news. There were new nodules in both lungs. The cancer was now believed to actually be the more aggressive and extremely rare Transitional Liver Cell Tumor. Surgery alone was not going to be the curative answer. He immediately started a drug called Gemox in hopes to "contain" and stave off the inevitable. After much debate, it was agreed between us, his oncologist and the surgeons to remove those tumors. Two days after Christmas 2012 we sped across the heartland, trying to outrun a snowstorm and a low-grade fever he was fighting, to get to Cincinnati.
The pathology of these tumors confirmed the new diagnosis. We tracked down Dr. Arthur Zimmerman, MD, Institute of Pathology of the University, Berne, Switzerland, who is an authority on pediatric liver tumors and one of the only researchers to investigate TLCT. After reviewing Dashiell's case history/pathology slides, he confirmed it was this kind of cancer.
Post-surgery Dashiell underwent 10 rounds of radiation in Cincinnati. As with all of his other treatments, Dashiell did not suffer any concerning side-effects. In fact, he never endured the expected routine side-effects, such as mouth sores, nausea or fatigue, except for hair loss. Even his recovery from the all of the surgeries was without incident. This was one indicator to us, his family, that nothing was working.
Returning to Iowa, we prepared for our Make A Wish trip to Southern California to spend quality time with family and friends there. Subsequent scans after the trip revealed more and bigger tumors in Dashiell's lungs. He did one final round of experimental chemo to no avail. Despite all our efforts, he succumbed to this disease on 6/17/13.
To ensure Dashiell's journey was not in vain, his post-mortem tumors were donated to scientific research through University of Iowa Hospital's and Clinics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and the COG. Additionally his legacy will live on through a trust established by our family, through which we will fund research/projects/programs/organizations that have become important to us as we faced this challenge.
We choose to live with as much happiness, fun, peace and love as possible. Dashiell had a blessed life, as happy as any child could possibly be. He never knew one day of true sorrow. He never knew neglect or abuse of any kind. His life (and death) was better than anyone we know. He believes in Santa Claus, loves lemon drop candy, playing with his brothers and hugging his doggie. He is very deeply loved and the remainder of his days were totally and completely full to the brim with all of this.
We started this page to share the joy and energy Dashiell continued to have through his care. After hearing his cancer was terminal on December 4, 2012, he went through 3 long days of out-patient tests and (high adult-dose) chemo. On the third day he still wanted to go to the Cincinnati Zoo to see reindeer and Santa. That night, on the way back to the hotel, while we waited for Brian to get burgers, he sat in the car singing the Muppets "Mahna Mahna" song. It was so touching to me to see this sweet little boy so full of life that he didn't care the pain he had just endured, he was focused on the happiness he was feeling. So, we created this page to let our family and friends know he was terminal, but not to pity any of us. He (and the rest of the Codds) were choosing to embrace what is wonderful about life. Then, we encouraged people to share those sentiments by bringing a smile to Dashiell and uploading videos of themselves, loved ones, friends, coworkers or complete strangers singing the song. But knowing not everyone was game, we encouraged a joke, poem, photo...anything that would lighten the mood and keep the laughs coming. Please feel free to continue to share on the page, because we all need a laugh sometimes. It's good for the soul and reminds us of Dashiell's indomitable spirit.