‘A friend is the medicine’

Published 7:31 pm Friday, July 26, 2019

Youngster raises money to help ailing classmate


As he endures a rare form of cancer, D.J. Bizzell, has got a champion in Capron Elementary classmate Brock Applewhite. On Thursday, the latter got to open a lemonade stand at his grandparents’ business, Gurganus Peanuts in town. According to his grandmother, Dora, the boy raised money from the sale of the beverage and treats. The money is going to help D.J.’s family with medical expenses incurred from the extensive treatment the 7-year-old has been receiving.

David Bizzell said he had taken his son to a hospital on May 31 when the boy became especially sick.

“It took 2-1/2 to three weeks for doctors to figure it out,” said Bizzell. ‘It’ finally being diagnosed as undifferentiated embroyonal sarcoma of the liver. According to www.kidshealth.org, that’s a rare type of liver cancer that chiefly affects children. Symptoms can include a lump in the belly, pain in that area, tiredness and loss of appetite.

The first part of disease name — undifferentiated — means that the cancer cells don’t look any other kind of cell for the liver or muscles. The second word — embryonal, means that cancer grew early in the fetus’ development. The third part — sarcoma — means the disease grows from the kind of cells that create connective tissue, that is, cells that support other kinds of bodily tissues.

D.J. stayed at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk until June 14. Reportedly after a biopsy, there was bleeding in the liver, and the boy was flown to the intensive care unit at the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville. He was there until about two weeks ago, said his father. The boy’s mother is Raquel Carter.

Now their son is at home and “doing great now,” said Bizzell. The boy is being weaned off narcotic medicines, but still has “a bunch of medicines” to take. A feeding tube has been used as D.J.’s appetite was “not so great.”

A five-day treatment is coming up and a CT scan will be used to determine if the tumor is a manageable size to be removed. He added that within a week it grew from the size of a golfball to about two-thirds the size a grapefruit. If the tumor can be excised, that will be done back at UVa. Speaking after a twice-weekly checkup on Friday at CHKD, Bizzell said that D.J. is a candidate for a liver transplant. The physicians, though, have apparently indicated they don’t think that will be necessary. The affected part of the liver could be cut out, and then the liver will regenerate. Radiation treatments would follow at CHKD.

Bizzell has been moved by the community support, such as Brock’s endeavor.

“It’s awesome. Someone set up a Go Fund Me page, there’s been a ball tournament, a fishing tournament,” he said. “A lot of people have been helping out. There’s lot of cards. The support is overwhelming. I can’t believe it.”