Meet Ezra: A Mighty Little Fighter

Ezra playing at home following the completion of his cancer treatments in June.
Ezra and his big sister, Ella on an outing in June.
Ezra and his dad, Matt with the hospital therapy dog.
Ezra and his mom, Jaime, catching some quiet time during his treatments in March.

Meet Ezra: A Mighty Little Fighter

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ezra Sallman, from Olathe, Kansas, is a three-year-old super hero-loving little ball of energy according to his mother, Jaime Sallman. The Avengers and all things Halloween are his trademarks and he’s become a hero to many, thanks to his courageous battle with brain cancer.

In early November of 2017, Ezra woke up and had vomited, which began a life-altering journey. After several trips to the doctor, weeks of periodic vomiting, then weight loss and extreme fatigue he woke up one morning with incessant vomiting. His parents took him to the emergency room and eventually were told their 2 ½ year old son had a brain tumor. While they were scared to death of the tumor, they were also scared of the surgery and the high risks it brought with it.

After diagnosis, they had to wait three days over the Thanksgiving holiday for Ezra’s surgery. The Sallmans were cautioned by the medical team that Ezra may have serious physical and neurological deficits as a result of the surgery, so the holiday was somewhat of a blessing in disguise. They spent that time soaking up Ezra as they knew him. During those three days, they wondered how their son would be following the surgery…would Ezra be able to walk? To talk? To even breathe on his own? They didn’t know, but as Jaime said, “We felt like we didn’t even have an option, we knew the cancer would kill him if we didn’t have the surgery. I don’t know that it was a good choice, but it was all we had.” Ezra’s dad, Matt, added, “As a parent you think of your kid getting older and having a “normal life” and I remember thinking that probably wasn’t going to be his reality. You go from having these dreams for him to what can we do to save his life and what can we do then to improve the quality of his life.”  

"You go from having these dreams for him to what can we do to save his life and what can we do then to improve the quality of his life.” -Matt Sallman, Ezra's father

Thanks to his medical team at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Ezra’s entire tumor was successfully removed. While this was wonderful news, Matt and Jaime were worried about what Ezra would be like when he woke up. When they got into the recovery room, Ezra saw his mom and “he nearly launched out of the crib” at her, at which point they knew was going to be okay.

Following recovery of the surgery, Ezra underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, the first three rounds were milder and less toxic, but included week-long inpatient stays and five or six doses of chemo each time. Prior to the last three rounds, some of Ezra’s stem cells were harvested, then he was given two types of high-dose chemotherapy. Once the chemo left his system Ezra’s stem cells were re-injected to help him recover quicker. While Ezra handled most of the treatment very well, the last round was very tough on him.

Even through the treatments, Ezra has been considered cancer free since his tumor resection surgery in November 2017. He now must undergo scans every three months to check for regrowth. This “cancer free” status, while wonderful, does not come without worry. One of the high-dose chemotherapy drugs Ezra took put him at risk for developing secondary cancers in the future. In doing their own research, Matt and Jaime found that one of the drugs was developed in the 1950s, which makes it almost 70 years old. Even though there have been some modifications, Matt said, “It’s kind of frustrating when there really is no other option for our son, though we are grateful we had the treatment option. A lot of parents in this situation don’t even have that option. We wish to see that change and we want to be the voice of that change. It’s sad that I actually feared the chemo as much as I feared the cancer.”

Today, at age three, Ezra is doing well, thanks in part to his integrative health plan such as dietary changes to help heal his gut. His parents are trying now to help repair the damage done by the treatment, and helping him adapt to his new normal, which includes some hearing loss. The further Ezra gets from treatment, the better he seems to feel. He’s back to playing, laughing and pestering his sister, which is a welcome sign to his parents! Matt noticed his boy starting to sing again lately, “a kid that feels well, is going to sing, so that told me that internally he’s feeling much better”.

Even though Ezra is on the mend from his cancer and recovery from treatments, his family does not take his life for granted. Jaime said, “I don’t know how many nights I get to tuck him in and go to bed with him sound asleep in the next room. It’s cherished.”

The Sallmans were excited to note that their oncologist in Kansas City knew of the Team Jack Foundation and some of the projects funded by Team Jack. Matt said, “Everybody’s support in Nebraska and beyond for Team Jack is making an impact. Anything we can do to help in that effort, we are all hands on deck.”

Investments in research help kids like Ezra get newer and better treatments. The Team Jack Foundation is committed to finding a cure, and with your support we can beat pediatric brain cancer. It starts right NOW. Donate