Blue Springs, MO – If you can believe it, the Burner family of Blue Springs has had a bit of fun in a not so fun way.
The family recently returned from Disney World as part of Dalton Burner’s wish to meet his favorite characters: Phineas and Ferb.
The family of five made the trip under the cloud of extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcoma, a rare cancerous soft-tissue tumor that had grown in Dalton’s left calf muscle.
His mother, Melissa, said the trip was a dream come true for her son, who was diagnosed with cancer in February 2010, when he was 5 years old.
At the time, Dalton was your typical kid: he loved playing sports and being outside. Since he was young, however, Dalton had complained of a pain in his calf, something that his parents and doctors attributed to growing pains.
“Our other boys went through the same thing,” Melissa said. “We didn’t think it was weird or out of the ordinary in any way.”
One evening, while visiting with friends, a friend of the family compared Dalton’s legs by touch. One leg was unmistakably larger in diameter than the other. The family was left to wonder over the weekend what the significance of their find was, and on Monday, they made an appointment to check on it.
They had an ultrasound done and the physician agreed to meet with the family after hours.
“My heart stopped when the secretary said he wanted to meet with us,” she said. “It was difficult to believe, especially because it’s so rare in adults and almost unheard of in children.”
There was indeed a growth on Dalton’s calf muscle, and the family quickly put Dalton into radiation therapy for five weeks. As part of the therapy, Dalton’s white blood cells decreased, leaving him susceptible to colds and general illness. By the end of the treatment, the growth had shrunk. In May 2010, the tumor was removed by surgery. Having become intertwined in the muscles of his calf, surgeons had to remove muscle, some nerves and part of a ligament as well.
Five months later, before returning for a routine examination, the family found not one new tumor but two – one the size of a marble, the other the size of a golf ball.
“That shows how fast the tumor can grow,” she said.
Through chemotherapy, both tumors were reduced in size over a period of months and Dalton has been cancer free.
“We were all lucky because many of our friends have it so much worse,” she said. “But Dalton was a champ through it all.”
Her son has since returned to being a little boy, which includes playing soccer and T-ball. He returns to the hospital every three months and, if there are no tumors, every six months.
To add to the difficulties, Melissa suffered a cardiac arrest in April 2011. While genetic in nature, she does attribute – at least partially – the condition to the stress the family was under.
“We put my husband through the ringer, that’s for sure,” she said. “Luckily I had the attack on a Saturday morning.”
During the family’s fight, a distant relative of Melissa’s told the Kids Wish Network about Dalton, and the organization emailed the family. Representatives there asked them what Dalton wished for, and Disney World topped the list. A close second was to visit Denver to see the Denver Broncos play football.
Dalton chose Disney World and meeting his favorite cartoon characters, Phineas and Ferb.
To help fund the trip, the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 2131 held a fish-fry fundraiser.
“This was one of those things where we were looking forward to getting away from it all, and we did,” she said. “We all had a great time.”
Now what does Dalton have to say about his experience, one that few kids his age undergo?
“I wasn’t scared at all,” he said plainly, then recants. “I was scared.”
He’s not so much scared now, though, not with the memories of Disney World and the characters he met there.
“I liked meeting them a lot,” he said of Phineas and Ferb, adding that his next wish is to visit Gator Land in Florida.
In addition to meeting the cartoon characters, the three brothers were invited on stage during the Pirates Dinner Adventure and sworn in as official pirates.
Blue Springs Examiner
Blue Springs, Missouri