SEABROOK — Three-year old Anthony O’Dell should be looking forward to Christmas and the gifts Santa will be bring. But instead the toddler is at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, fighting for his life as he undergoes eight weeks of radiation.
The latest treatment comes after Anthony spent three months at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth in Lebanon, N.H., where he underwent chemotherapy following his surgery for an aggressive form of brain cancer. And he’s not done yet, as doctors try to eradicate every cell of the atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor that threatens his life.
“His last radiation treatment will be Dec. 11,” family friend Kathy Gosselin said. “He and his mother travel back and forth to Boston every day for the radiation. After that, he’ll be quarantined before he has another round of chemotherapy, this time double strength.”
The son of Angela Smith of Seabrook and Anthony O’Dell Sr. of Hampton, little Anthony has had problems since he was born, Gosselin said. But it was only this summer that doctors diagnosed his symptoms as AT/RT.
Initially, Anthony’s problems eating and digesting were chalked up to issues with formula, Gosselin said. But the boy failed to thrive, and all the milestones children achieve as they grow — walking, taking and just about everything — were delayed, she said.
Although his mother and grandmother, Lisa Smith, felt something more was wrong, Anthony’s issues were erroneously determined to be severe learning disabilities, Gosselin said.
“Although he has a few words, they thought he’d never really be able to speak,” Gosselin said. “So they had someone coming to the house to teach him sign language so he could communicate.”
This summer, however, when Anthony was unable to keep his food down once again, his mother and grandmother had enough, Gosselin said. They insisted on referrals to specialists, which took him to Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, a two-hour drive from home. That’s when doctors found Anthony had the rare brain tumor, one he’d probably had since birth.
“During the first round of chemotherapy, he had every side effect they said he might have,” Gosselin said. “He ran a temperature so he had to stay in the hospital. But since that’s been over and radiation’s begun, he’s starting to eat again. He has a (feeding) tube in his stomach.”
Gosselin said the crisis has been brutal on the family, both emotionally and financially. Anthony also has a 4-year-old sister, JC.
“Angela had to care for Anthony, so she had to quit her job,” Gosselin said. “He has New Hampshire’s Health Kids (insurance) program. But the costs are mounting. There’s gas, tolls and parking for going in and out of Boston every day, and a lot of other things, too.”
The financial burden resulting from Anthony’s illness had led friends to organize a fundraiser for the family Friday night at American Legion Hall at 169 Walton Road in Seabrook. The event will run from 7 to 11 p.m. and include food, music, prizes and lots of raffles for gift certificates from local businesses as well as great gift baskets and more. Admission to the fundraiser is $5.
Gosselin said since beginning radiation, Anthony has been getting back to being his old self. And his old self took the hearts of everyone at The Daily News during his visit yesterday.
“He’s smiling again,” she said. “He’s a very friendly, happy, lovable child. And he loves everybody.”
For those who can’t make the event Friday night, but still want to make a contribution to support Anthony and his family, call Gosselin at 603-501-8803.