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Terrorist wages war in Obion County

Terrorist wages war in Obion County
Associate Editor
Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the twin towers in New York, was a day that terrified a nation and changed many lives. But lives which changed on that day in Obion County changed because of a totally different terrorist. They changed because of a terrorist that attacked the body of a young 3 1/2-year-old boy — cancer.
In June 2001, Jim and Cande Taylor were on the beach watching their young healthy-looking son, Derek, play in the sand. A short three months later, Derek was telling his father that he was “peeing red.” As concerned parents should, they picked up the phone and immediately called Dr. John Clendenin of the Doctor’s Clinic in Union City. A check of his urine showed no signs of bacteria so the decision was made that Derek should be sent to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, where he was tested by Dr. John Shaw. Two days later, Sept. 13, 2001, the worst was confirmed — Derek had cancer, in fact, he was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, a type of kidney cancer.
Mrs. Taylor said the CAT scan results showed Derek no longer had a left kidney; the tumor had taken over.
The Taylor family is fortunate that Derek, who was potty-trained, noticed there was something unusual and told his father. Wilm’s Tumor is a fast-growing tumor and can double within a month’s time. And Derek had none of the normal symptoms of the disease, his mother said, adding most people who have it first notice fatigue and weight loss. This type of cancer is also usually found in children younger than Derek.
Both Drs. Clendenin and Shaw recommended the next step should be treatment at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. The day after finding out the diagnosis, Derek, met yet another Dr. John — Dr. John Pope at Vanderbilt. Surgery to remove the tumor and 12 lymph nodes was performed the following Wednesday and Derek was released that Saturday. It was the next week the Taylors found out Derek had Stage 3 cancer.
Derek would have to endure chemotherapy and radiationNeither he nor his family was prepared for the latter, Mrs. Taylor said.
“They put him to sleep … because he was so young,” she said, adding they had made a special pillow formed to his body for him to sleep in while he was getting the treatments. “It was the only time he got sick, too,” she said.
“I always woke up grumpy,” Derek, who is now 12 years old, added.
Derek stayed on chemotherapy treatments for seven months and in that time Mrs. Taylor only missed one — when she gave birth to Derek’s little sister, Cassidy, who is now 8-years-old. Someone who never missed a treatment though, besides his dad, was his grandfather Butch Fussell. Mrs. Taylor said grandparents Butch and Patti Fussell of Troy were very helpful and were always there during this trying time.
After having Cassidy, Mrs. Taylor had more to be concerned about. Cassidy had a 20 percent chance of being been born with the cancer. There’s no test to determine if a child will develop it, and, since it is a fast-growing cancer, Mrs. Taylor said they were constantly watching their young daughter for any changes.
“It makes you worry about every fever,” the elder Taylor said.
If the cancer wasn’t bad enough, Derek must now watch for the effects of the cancer treatments — secondary cancers, leukemia, high blood pressure, scoliosis. “There’s a whole page of things to be aware of,” Mrs. Taylor said.
So he returns to Vanderbilt every year for tests. And while he’s there, he gets to see the smiling face of his nurse, Kelly Newman, who was there for him through every treatment. She made such an impression on him, Derek wrote an essay about “Nurse Kelly” and what she means to him. His essay was recently selected to be printed in the book “Extraordinary Healers: CURE Readers Honor Oncology Nurses Volume 3.” It “celebrates the extraordinary men and women who make a difference in patients’ lives,” according to a spokesman for CURE, a quarterly magazine that combines science with humanity to empower cancer patients and their caregivers with the latest information on every aspect of cancer — from the technical and the scientific, to the social and emotional.
“She’s really nice and she’s been there the whole time I’ve been there,” Derek said, adding she makes sure they get into a room fast. “And, she makes sure Daddy doesn’t look when they stick me with a needle.”
Today Derek does not seem to have suffered much from his battle with cancer or the treatments performed to keep the terrorist from invading his body again.
He has had no growth problems and has always been on his growth chart. He started to school on time, is an honor roll student, makes straight As and is in the Plus Class at Black Oak Elementary School. He plays baseball and basketball but must stay away from serious contact sports like football and soccer. Yet, still during the first three seasons of baseball, he had to wear a kidney protector.
“We make sure he stays hydrated,” Taylor said, adding he’s a big milk drinker. He’s suppose to stay away from caffeine, so his chocolate intake is limited. Though, Derek admitted, he’s not much of a candy eater.
School days are made easier on his mom, since Mrs. Taylor works at Black Oak. Derek said when he was on “the little side” she constantly kept an eye on him. But now that he’s on the junior high side, she just stops in when he needs to take any medicine.
After 10 years of tests and no signs that the cancer has returned, Derek will hopefully receive the news he’s been waiting for so long — that he is “cancer free.” “But we’re still going back (for tests). Just to make sure everything is OK,” his mom said.
Derek is also the grandson of Judy and Claude Gray of Union City and Danny and Sue Taylor of Mansfield, Ill. His great-grandmothers are Ann Bailey of Troy and Christine Fussell and Ella Worley, both of Union City.
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by e-mail at
Published in The Messenger 6.2.10