On March 8, 2015, my 4-year-old son, Teddy Moore passed away in my arms at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
By Danielle Armas
On March 8, 2015, my 4-year-old son, Teddy Moore passed away in my arms at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I feel honored that I was able to hold him the same way while he took his last breath as when he took his first. My husband and I, his older brother and sister, four grandparents, seven uncles, seven aunts, and fourteen cousins survive him.
In September 2013 Teddy was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops in the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the network of nerves that carries messages from the brain throughout the body. Doctors have no idea how neuroblastoma begins and at the time of Teddy’s diagnosis he had a 50 percent survival rate. In the first six months of treatment, Teddy underwent an exploratory and biopsy surgery, seven rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, an abdominal resection to remove a large tumor mass, 20 rounds of radiation, and then graduated to an immunotherapy treatment called 3f8.
In July 2014, Teddy relapsed and underwent three more rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, two rounds of low-dose chemotherapy and 24 more rounds of radiation before returning to immunotherapy treatment. We were feeling very positive about his response to treatment until January of this year when Teddy began having swelling and pain from the high-dose radiation treatments. After many tests, scans, and meetings, the medical team determined that the pain and swelling would go away on its own. On January 28 the scans showed “no new disease.”
On February 16, my husband and I brought Teddy to the hospital because we had noticed new swelling and what looked like a rash on his chest. After a quick CT his doctor told us that the disease had come back and had spread so quickly that there were no other treatment options. Shocked and with heavy hearts we decided to bring our son home on hospice.
How do you tell a 4-year old that he is going to pass away? There are no guidebooks or proven ways. Even though I was never able to say the words, I am sure that he knew because of the way that he said goodbye to his brother and sister, to grandma and grandpa, and to Auntie Jen and Uncle Steve; the way in his last words he told me that it was “the worst day ever”, and that he wanted me to take him home.
People say that I am strong but I am not, the real strength came from Teddy for never changing during 18 months of suffering and my other children who are so sad but go to school every day.
The most important thing to know is that our son was more than his disease, he was more than a statistic – he was Teddy. He never let cancer keep him down or change who he was. He told anyone that would listen after his first round of chemo that, “I better now.” Teddy never got upset when we shaved his head, but instead would smile and say, “Now I look like Daddy.” He would never leave for the hospital until Grandpa got to our house and came in to say hello. It didn’t matter if his white blood cell count was zero or he was vomiting, he insisted on going outside every single day. Even when he had long hospital stays, the doctors and nurses couldn’t believe how energetic he was, running the halls for hours, using his remote control cars at the nurse’s station, or spending the whole day in the playroom.
My son Teddy laughed constantly, loved fiercely, and, most importantly, lived every day to its fullest. He couldn’t wait to pick up his brother and sister from the Rye Nature Center; he loved all the people that worked there and the animals, and, of course, the big slide that every time he made it down he ended with a yell of “I did it.” Between walks to the Duck Pond, swimming the days away at Grandma’s and Shenorock, the Bronx Zoo, the Norwalk Aquarium, going to his big brother’s football games and his sisters lacrosse games, begging to go on the swings at Milton after school pickup, or just waiting outside for Daddy to get home from work Teddy was up for anything.
Teddy loved running and every day we ran to Oakland Beach Deli for a Spiderman ice cream or to pick up the kids from school. He didn’t care that people stared and pointed at him – he just smiled, laughed, and kept on running. He always wanted to go to Grandma’s house and look through her storybooks and play cars. He begged to go to his Auntie Jen’s house every weekend so he could play Nerf guns with his cousin or go sleigh riding in the snow. Spending days on his scooter up and down the street, using the butterfly net to catch Daddy, playing basketball and baseball in the front yard, spending days in Central Park walking the ramble with his magnifying glass looking for what he called “mysteries.” I know that he will be with our family everywhere we go.
My son was smart, stubborn, funny, and bossy, and would light up a room. People always knew he was around when they heard his deep raspy voice. Sometimes I feel that I might die from a broken heart, but then I look at my daughter on her new bike and my son playing catch with his friends and I can see Teddy in them. He has touched more people than I will ever know.