Boy, 5, diagnosed with hard-to-spot cancer after falling over and breaking his arm at school

By | April 1, 2019

Boy, 5, diagnosed with hard-to-spot cancer after falling over and breaking his arm at school

  • Derrick ‘DJ’ Schott, five, from Hillview, Kentucky, fell and broke his arm in December 2018 while getting ready to go home from school 
  • His aunt and uncle, Sandra and Charles Tillett, who are his legal guardians, rushed him to the ER to get checked out
  • Doctors found a large mass where his arm was broken and transferred him to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville
  • After four days of tests, the kindergartner was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer
  • DJ is undergoing 10 weeks of chemotherapy, then surgery to remove the tumor and to replace part of his bone with a prosthetic rod that will grow as he does 

Last December, five-year-old Derrick ‘DJ’ Schott tripped and broke his arm as he rushed to get ready to get on the school bus home.

His aunt and uncle Sandra and Charles Tillett, his legal guardians, rushed him to the local ER in Hillview, Kentucky, to get checked out.

Doctors discovered that the kindergartner had broken his humerus, the bone that connects the elbow joint and the shoulder.

The medical team noticed something else on the X-rays: a large mass where DJ’s bone was broken.

He was transferred and admitted to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville for tests and, four days later, the family learned that DJ had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

Derrick 'DJ' Schott, five (left and right), from Hillview, Kentucky, fell and broke his arm in December 2018 while getting ready to go home from school. Pictured: DJ in the hospital

His aunt and uncle rushed him to the ER to get checked out. Pictured: DJ in the hospital

Derrick ‘DJ’ Schott, five (left and right), from Hillview, Kentucky, fell and broke his arm in December 2018 while getting ready to go home from school. His aunt and uncle rushed him to the ER to get checked out

Doctors found a large mass where DJ's arm was broken and transferred him to Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville. Pictured: DJ going fishing

Doctors found a large mass where DJ’s arm was broken and transferred him to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville. Pictured: DJ going fishing

According to a GoFundMe page, Charles and Sandra began fostering DJ when he was just three days old.

His mother had used methamphetamine while pregnant and her son had been born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

This is when a baby withdraws from drugs he or she was exposed to in the womb before birth.

DJ went through withdrawal for about three months. Five months later, the Tilletts formally adopted him. 

Sandra told PEOPLE that DJ has had no other medical issues and that the cancer diagnosis was devastating.

‘There were so many things going through our head,’ she said. 

‘Our first reaction was tears. What do we do from here? What’s he gonna go through? Is he gonna be able to keep his arm? It was tears and sorrow.’    

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It occurs when the cells that grow new bone form a cancerous tumor.

Most tumors usually develop around the knee, either in the lower part of the thighbone or the upper part of the shinbone.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most people with the cancer do no show any symptoms until the cancer has progressed.

If the tumor is in the leg, the person may limp. In some cases, the bone where the tumor is can break because the tumor weakens the bone – as occurred in DJ’s case.    

The long-term survival rate is between 70 and 75 percent if the cancer has not spread.

After four days of tests, the kindergartner was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Pictured: DJ playing football

After four days of tests, the kindergartner was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Pictured: DJ playing football

If osteosarcoma has already spread, such as to the lungs or other bones at diagnosis, the long-term survival rate is about 30 percent.

Just a few days after being diagnosed, DJ began a 10-week chemotherapy regimen.

DJ (pictured) is undergoing 10 weeks of chemotherapy, then surgery to remove the tumor

Surgeons will also replace part of his bone with a prosthetic rod that will grow as he does and then give DJ (pictured) seven more weeks of chemotherapy

DJ (left and right) is undergoing 10 weeks of chemotherapy, then surgery to remove the tumor. Surgeons will also replace part of his bone with a prosthetic rod that will grow as he does and then give him seven more weeks of chemotherapy.

Doctors are hoping this will shrink the tumor so that, when chemotherapy is finished, they can go in and surgically remove the tumor, according to the GoFundMe.

Surgeons will also remove some of the bone in his arm and insert a prosthetic metal rod that can be adjusted as he grows. 

Once that procedure is completed, he’ll undergo seven more weeks of chemotherapy to prevent any new cancer cells from emerging. 

Because DJ has so many hospital appointments, he’s been unable to attend school, 

‘He is doing home school, but he misses his classmates terribly,’ Sandra told PEOPLE.

‘This kid is five [years old] and he is so strong. He has not cried through any of the scans or the tests or anything. He is taking it so, so well – better than I know I would.’

His family has started a Facebook page titled Team DJ ‘Go for the Gold’ to provide updates on his condition. They hope he’ll be declared to be in remission soon.

“He’s getting tired of the hospital, but he’s just a normal kid,’ Sandra said.

‘After his surgery, [doctors] thought he’d be in a wheelchair for three months but, once we got home, he was up and running after five days.’

Family friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of DJ’s medical bills. So far, more than $ 1,800 has been raised out of a $ 10,000 goal. 

WHAT IS OSTEOSARCOMA?

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, usually diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.

It occurs when the cells that grow new bone form a cancerous tumor.     

The cause of the cancer is unknown but it is thought to be related to rapid bone growth, such as adolescence.

Most tumors usually develop around the knee, either in the lower part of the thighbone or the upper part of the shinbone.

If the cancer has not spread, the long-term survival rate is between 70 and 75 percent.

If osteosarcoma has already spread, such as to the lungs or other bones at diagnosis, the long-term survival rate is about 30 percent.

Symptoms:   

  • Bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects)
  • Bone fractures
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Limping
  • Limitation of motion of joints

There are a few treatment options for osteosarcoma.

  • Chemotherapy:  

Often administered before surgery, chemotherapy uses drugs that help shrink and kill cancerous cells. The length of treatment varies and may depend on whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. 

In most cases, surgeons can save the cancerous limb. The tumor and surrounding bone are removed and the missing bone is replaced with an artificial one.

  • Rotationplasty:

A rotationplasty is a procedure in which the bottom of the femur, the knee, and the upper tibia are surgically removed. The lower leg is then rotated 180 degrees and attached to the femur.

Sources: Macmillan and Healthline

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