Palmer Infant’s Family Copes with Baby’s Cancer Diagnosis
Parents struggle to care for child and keep farming business
A diagnosis of cancer would frighten anyone, but imagine if the patient was your infant son. A family in Palmer got the news in November and has been dealing with it ever since.
At ten months old Gideon Davis was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma that affects the muscle system. His mother, Kathy Davis, said the family had no idea there was anything wrong until the day her son woke-up in what appeared to be excruciating pain and wouldn’t stop crying.
It was several days and several visits to the doctor before Gideon was diagnosed. A scan revealed a tumor was pressing against Gideon’s bladder. Kathy says news the disease was already in stage 3 was frightening, but she and husband Alex made a decision early on not to let it rule their lives.
“It can tear your life apart if you let it,” says Kathy of the cancer. “But we have made the decision that we are not going to let it. He has cancer. We are fighting cancer.”
Of course fighting cancer is never easy, even for a can-do family like the Davises. Some of the challenges include the fact that all five of their young children are home-schooled. That can make it hard when one parent has to leave for overnight hospital stays with Gideon.
Then there’s the family business. The Davises make their living on their family farm, raising animals for market and growing organic vegetables. Alex Davis says it’s a year-round business that doesn’t stop for a family emergency.
“We have goats that are bred and we’ve got pigs that are bred,” says Alex Davis. “I can’t be gone from the farm when they are having babies.”
Despite that, both Alex and Kathy make the frequent drive to Anchorage from their home on Lazy Mountain to what has become their second home, the children’s wing of Providence Hospital. On a good week Gideon is there every Thursday for chemotherapy. On a bad week he may not leave the hospital for several days.
Gideon is getting weeks of chemotherapy that will be followed by weeks of radiation in a Portland hospital. His therapy is aggressive but it’s what it takes to kill a cancer that many children do survive.
“It’s surprising but it’s become the norm for him,” says Kathy of her son’s frequent trips to the hospital. “He adapts, we just have to keep up with his adapting and find out what is normal for us too.”
One thing that has made the situation more bearable for the Davises is the support they’ve received. Friends and family have rallied and several churches in the Palmer area have helped out as well. But there has also been an outpouring from another group, the Davis’s loyal customers.
Alex sells his organic products from his A.D. Farm at the Center Market in the Sears Mall. For weeks after Gideon’s diagnosis a friend and business partner manned the farm stand so that Alex could spend more time at home and at the hospital. He says the questions never stopped about how little Gideon was doing.
“Many of these people have shopped with us for years and they are like family,” says Alex. “It’s good to know they care.”
The next stop for Gideon is a four- to six-week stay in a Portland hospital for radiation treatments. But before he heads that way, friends have arranged a fundraiser at an Anchorage restaurant. It will be held at the Hott Stixx restaurant downtown on Monday February 20. The cost is $50 per person, which includes a five-course all-Alaska ingredients meal. Reservations are strongly recommended at 276-7116.