When Oklahoma mom Kori Dimsdale’s young son, Carson, fell ill one day in late 2016, she thought the worst it could be was flu. It was winter and no-one had felt their best that week, so surely it was just another bug doing the rounds. Besides, despite a few minor symptoms, the boy said he felt fine. However, a trip to the doctors was to prove her very wrong and would turn the Dimsdale’s lives upside down.
It doesn’t take long for anyone who has ever met eight-year-old Carson Dimsdale to fall for his special charms. He is an incredibly smart child who loves to make people laugh and has a hug available for anyone who needs it. Sure, he can get a little difficult at times, but what boy his age doesn’t?
The little guy lives with his mom and dad in the city suburb of Edmond, OK. He loves the two family dogs, Bella and Boomer, and likes to play with them and his toys. In fact, Carson loves his toys so much that he even creates his own. He has shelves full of colorful self-made dinosaurs – or “Zorts,” as the creative kid calls them. Some of them feature hidden features such as a tail that doubles as a secret gun.
In early December 2016, Carson complained to his mom about a slight fever and a pain in his leg. It seemed that everyone had been feeling under the weather lately, so Kori Dinsdale didn’t think much of it. However, when Carson’s symptoms had not subsided after a week, the cautious mom made a doctor’s appointment for December, 16.
Kori thought very little more about it. She imagined that it was a case of strep throat – a bacterial infection, symptoms of which include a prolonged sore throat, a fever, headache and swollen lymph nodes. At the very worst, perhaps it was the flu. Nevertheless, mom felt it was best that Carson was checked out by a doctor just to be sure.
When Kori and her husband, Will, took their son to the doctor’s office, the professional performed a blood test on Carson. This was a perfectly routine procedure under the circumstances. The results, however, were anything but routine. They showed a highly elevated count of white blood cells. Immediately, the experienced doctor knew the devastating diagnosis. Carson was not suffering from strep throat or flu, but something much, much more serious.
The dread diagnosis was leukemia. The doctor instructed Kori and Will to take Carson to The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City straight away to confirm his diagnosis. When more tests were performed at the specialist pediatric oncology unit, it was discovered that the little boy had a form of the cancer called acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
Leukemia is a type of cancer specific to white blood cells. Acute leukemia, however, means that the cancer is particularly aggressive and should be treated immediately. Myeloid pertains to the myeloid cells, whose function is to fight bacterial infections, aid the body’s defense against parasites, as well as controlling damage to body tissue.
Nonetheless, aside from a couple of flu-like symptoms – which are typical of AML – Carson felt perfectly fine. Consequently, his parents and doctors were shocked to discover that the disease was present in almost all of the little guy’s body. And due to the cancer’s aggressive nature, the oncology specialists knew it needed to be tackled fast.
“He had 85 percent leukemia in his body,” Kori explained to local TV station Oklahoma’s News Channel 4, in September 2017. “By the time he went up to the tenth floor, where cancer patients are cared for, he asked why he was there with sick kids.” Carson, however, would soon come to understand only too well.
The young lad was soon transferred to the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer at the OU Medical Center. There Carson would undergo his first grueling round of chemotherapy drug treatment. It was a regimen that would make the little guy incredibly ill, but nonetheless was expected to be highly effective against his rapidly growing cancer.
However, Carson’s disease proved so aggressive that the chemo had virtually no effect. It came as a total shock to his parents. “We had no idea that he wouldn’t be in remission after the first round,” Kori explained to Oklahoma’s News Channel 4. She added, “90 percent of kids are, and he didn’t just fail it, he miserably failed it.”
Carson was under the care of Dr. David Crawford at the Jimmy Everest Center. The specialist knew that the best hope for Carson was for the little lad to have a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was essential because with the cancer cells constantly multiplying, no chemo treatment will ever fully beat the disease.
As Dr. Crawford explained to Oklahoma’s News Channel 4, “You can imagine, if there is even one leukemia cell retained in a patient’s body and it has the ability to divide, the leukemia will eventually come back.” Bearing in mind the vital role bone marrow plays in supporting the immune system, a transplant was vital for Carson.
In the meantime, young boy’s body was still riddled with cancer after the initial round of chemotherapy had had practically no effect. In desperation, doctors needed to try something else. They administered a drug which had only been trialed in Tennessee, and to the specialists’ surprise, it worked on Carson far better than they anticipated it would.
This revived hope among the doctors and Carson’s family, and this was strengthened when a bone-marrow donor was matched with the little guy. Unfortunately, that hope faded when the prospective donor pulled out, leaving doctors with the tough task of finding a second match. But then they had a breakthrough.
While the experimental drug did amazing work to fight off Carson’s leukemia, his cancer team had the good fortune to find that elusive second bone-marrow match. A transplant operation would be Carson’s roughest challenge yet, but, as we have seen, he is made of strong stuff. “Transplant is the biggest, toughest round to go through, and he breezed through,” Kori told Oklahoma’s News Channel 4.
About six months – and one birthday – after his diagnosis, Carson was well enough to be allowed to return to his family home in Edmond. So strong was his response to treatment and his recovery from his transplant that the third-grader soon returned to school. Indeed, this remarkable boy’s strength and intellect impacts on everyone he meets.
“I think he’s a really brilliant child to be honest with you,” Dr. Crawford told Oklahoma’s News Channel 4. “He’s extremely smart, mature way beyond his years but a real job absolutely, we love taking care of him.” Young Carson still undergoes treatment for his AML more than a year on from his diagnosis.
Unfortunately, in October 2017, tests revealed that some leukemia was still present in Carson’s bone marrow. The little guy went through a short but intense course of daily chemo and was put on the list for another transplant. By January, a new donor had been located found and the procedure went ahead. Thankfully, the brave boy responded well to his second transplant. Two months on, and mercifully, it appeared that he was in remission. It has been a bitter fight for the little dude, let’s hope that this time he has got it licked – go Carson!