Cancer strikes baby, family fights for life

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Around 11 a.m. Thursday, Torence Thomas arrived at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron for what is hopefully his last round of chemotherapy.

Soon after, doctors will begin a series of tests to determine if his treatment has been successful.

WKBN First News Anchor and reporter Damon Maloney has been following the case of Candace Nuby and her twins, a boy and a girl, born on Sept. 7.

Weeks after their birth, Nuby noticed her son, Torence, wasn’t breathing right.

“He would have this rattle sound when he breathed and it would get louder the older he got,” said Nuby.

Nuby’s gut feeling led to back and forth trips to the emergency room. But the visits never resulted in answers as to what was causing the problem and only led to frustration.

“I was very upset. I just felt like everyone was trying to put me off like I was an over concerned mother, and I didn’t know my child,” said Nuby.

Right around Thanksgiving, Nuby had enough and told the medical staff she was not leaving the hospital until she found out what was wrong with her son. A scan of the child’s neck revealed the cancer. It was the last thing Nuby expected to hear about her 3-month-old son. Torence was immediately flown from the Valley to the main campus of Akron Children’s Hospital.

She can’t forget the diagnosis day.

“A group of doctors in white suits came in and they said the word ‘oncology’ and I knew that meant cancer,” Nuby said. “They said ‘malignant’ and I knew that meant cancer. And, then everything else was just like a blackout to me.”

Nuby would come to learn her son had neuroblastoma, which is a cancerous tumor that develops from nerve tissue. A tumor was growing on the left side of Torence’s neck, closing his windpipe. The cancer had spread to the other side of his neck as well.

For Nuby, two weeks in the intensive care unit was rough. There was little she could do to comfort her baby after surgery to remove the tumor.

Following the operation, Torence suffered a collapsed lung, among other issues, but her “Superman” bounced back as best he could.

“I just wanted the doctors to tell me he was going to live. Whatever the journey he had to go through, I was willing to go through it,” said Nuby. “Any medicine, any chemotherapy, I was willing to go through it. I just wanted to know in the end my son was going to live.”

Over the last several months Torence has undergone chemotherapy, been on several medications and gone through other medical procedures.

“We want Torence to get back to his normal self, and healthy, his immune system back and his hair and just continue to grow and be a happy baby,” said Nuby said.

Torence and his family will be in Akron for the next couple of days. His parents said the journey has taught them a lot about their son and one another.

“To actually experience cancer with your child, it’s unbelievable, just seeing a transformation that he made throughout the months to where he is now. It’s a beautiful feeling,” said Terence Thomas, Torence’s dad.

“I’m proud that he was as strong as he was,” said Nuby. “He definitely held us together with his strength.”

Torence has been under the care of Dr. John Fargo. The American Cancer Society states there are 700 new cases of neuroblastoma each year. Dr. Fargo said survival rate depends on how early the cancer is detected and what doctors actually see under the microscope.

“This type of cancer is not uncommon and is actually favorable to have kids under the age of 18 months to get this,” Dr. Fargo said.

While doctors and Torence’s parents await the test results, the words “cancer-free” can’t come soon enough.

Dr. Fargo said the baby’s prognosis is excellent.

Torence’s parents said they got to this point with the support of family, friends and strangers.

“I was a person who just lacked faith. And going through this right here definitely it built, it turned me into a different person, as far as what I believe and what I don’t,” Terence Thomas said.

An account has been setup at Huntington Bank locations to help with medical expenses for Torence Thomas. Those wishing to donate are asked to reference the “Torence Thomas Benefit Account.”

And from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Feb. 22, there’s an event happening at Monteen’s Restaurant & Lounge at 3807 Belmont Ave. in Liberty. The benefit will feature live music, a basket raffle and 50-50 raffles. Tickets are $8 each.

To view an unedited interview with Torence’s physician, Dr. John Fargo, click the third video player above.

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