CHICAGO — The family of a 5-year-old boy who has battled cancer for most of his life and now faces an incurable tumor is asking for help gathering cards to celebrate his birthday.
Lucas "Bear" Cervone, of Belmont Cragin, has fought various forms of leukemia since he was 2 years old. After beating cancer last year and then being diagnosed with a new form just months later, he received a stem cell transplant and was recovering.
But this week doctors discovered Lucas has a tumor they cannot treat.
Now Lucas' mom and dad, Rina and Anthony, are asking people to send Lucas birthday cards that will show the young boy how many people care about him. The family hopes to gather hundreds of the cards and surprise Lucas with them for his 6th birthday on May 7.
“He likes to know people care. He likes to know people are thinking about him,” Anthony said. “And it’s his birthday. He likes his birthday.”
Lucas Cervone, 5, has battled various forms of cancer for 3½ years.
Lucas underwent radiation, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant to fight his second bout with leukemia in November.
During recovery, he struggled with breathing problems, pneumonia, insomnia, mouth sores and fevers. He coughed blood. He was sedated and chemically paralyzed for more than a month during one treatment.
But there were good days, too: His father held his hands as Lucas walked for the first time post-treatment on Jan. 17. A few weeks later, Lucas' mom was at his side as he walked up and down a small staircase, the first steps he'd conquered in nearly three months. The family and their supporters raised more than $7,000 to buy robots that helped Lucas — and will help other children — "go" to school while in the hospital.
And on Feb. 6, Lucas went home.
Things were a little more normal for Lucas there: His family celebrated a belated Christmas in February, with Lucas and his brother, Franco, tearing open wrapping paper to reveal an Xbox One, games and two controllers.
"Now we can both play together," Franco told his little brother.
For Easter, Lucas wore a Ninja Turtle onesie and got toys, jelly beans and other sugary treats.
In and out of the hospital for months, Lucas even celebrated when his "port" — a spot under his skin where a needle would be attached to give him chemotherapy — wasn't used.
"I'm free!" he told his mom last week, giggling and bouncing up and down.
But by Sunday Lucas was having abdominal pain. He was brought to the hospital, where tests showed he had a mass in his chest.
It's a tumor, Anthony said. It's pressed against Lucas' heart.
The tumor is "behaving like a lymphoma," Anthony said on Tuesday, his voice sometimes cracking. Doctors said they think Lucas has relapsed.
"And after ... discussions with them, and after trying to figure out if there is a curative solution for this, there is not," Anthony said. "There is nothing that they have available to them that will cure this."
Lucas, who has battled cancer for 3½ years, will not undergo exploratory treatments, Anthony said. His family does not want him to suffer.
"Quite honestly, my wife and I are at a point where we don't want him to ... we just don't want to put him through any more," Anthony said. "We've been struggling and fighting and fighting and fighting some more. He's been incredible. And he's overcome," Anthony paused, his voice catching. "He's overcome so many odds.
"We can't ask him to do any more. I won't prolong this for our sake. I don't know if anyone can understand that if they're not in our position. But I can't be selfish. I can't make him suffer more because I don't want him to let go," he said.
Lucas is receiving palliative chemotherapy that might help slow the tumor's growth. But the 5-year-old boy's family is preparing to celebrate Lucas' May 7 birthday early, worried he won't be in good enough health to celebrate.
They'll host a private birthday party this weekend, Anthony said.
“Just so he can celebrate it because I don’t know where he’ll be on the 7th. I don’t know how he’ll feel. I don’t know any of that,” Anthony said. “We want him to be able to celebrate his 6th.”
The family is gathering cards that they will present to Lucas as a surprise for his birthday. They received more than 500 around Christmas. Now Anthony said even one would be enough, though they hope to get even more than they did during the holidays.
Cards should be addressed to Lucas Bear Heroes or Lucas Bear and sent to 40 E. Chicago Ave., No. 162, Chicago, IL 60611. The family isn't expecting anything material or any donations, Anthony said — the “cards and the well-being and the good thoughts are enough for us.”
In the meantime, the family is meeting with doctors and hospice team members. Lucas will be discharged on Wednesday.
“His spirits are still pretty good. He’s still stubborn,” Anthony joked. “He’s still fighting back. He’s grumpy, and he’s still laughing. He’s still his typical Lucas.”
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