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Pearce Murphy: Celebrating 20 Years of Life After Childhood Cancer

Pearce Murphy

“Your life and your body are not always the same after cancer. Thanks to my amazing family, friends, and network of doctors who have stood with me long after completing treatment, I am beyond grateful for the life I have been able to live over the past 20 years,” said Pearce.

Pearce Murphy
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Pearce Murphy was a happy-go-lucky fourth grader who enjoyed building pillow forts in the living room and snowmen outside with his three siblings. Until one day, he came home from summer camp with a stomach ache that would not go away.

After seeing multiple doctors and undergoing a variety of tests, the idea of cancer never came up. In fact, Pearce’s mother, Janise Murphy, said “cancer was the furthest thing from anyone’s thought.” But the furthest possibility quickly became a reality. In 2002, Pearce was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Burkitt’s type, at only 10 years old.

Today, a 30-year-old Pearce celebrates the 20-year anniversary of his diagnosis.

"When I look back and reflect on my diagnosis, my first thought is not about my experience during that time, but the 20 years that have passed since being in remission,” said Pearce. “Every moment – the good and bad – over the past two decades has been a gift."

How a Tumor Saved His Life

After returning home from camp, Pearce could not eat or keep food down. His doctor believed it was constipation, as his X-rays pointed to a blockage. “I remember my stomach would make noises in class,” said Pearce. “I hated that, because it drew attention and I felt like people were wondering what was happening, and I was too."

With no answers and her child in pain, Janise took Pearce to a specialist where he underwent multiple tests, which were all inconclusive. Doctors then performed exploratory surgery and found two tumors in Pearce’s intestines that were obstructing his digestive system. “When the surgeon stepped out of the operating room to tell us he found cancer and that Pearce would need additional treatment, the world just stopped,” said Janise. Turns out, finding and treating the tumors that made him sick also saved his life.

In speaking with Stanton C. Goldman, M.D., pediatric hematologist and medical oncologist at Texas Oncology—Medical City Dallas Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Janise knew they were at the right place for her son’s treatment. Dr. Goldman’s team wasted no time getting right to work. After the surgeon removed the tumors and while Pearce was under anesthesia, they implanted a port to make treatment easier. Pearce underwent surgery on Friday and began chemotherapy the following Monday.

The Positivity of a Tight-Knit Family

Being a parent can be tough, but being a parent of a cancer patient is unimaginable. “There were many days I was not keeping it together at all,” said Janise. When it came to having the conversation with her ten-year-old son about his diagnosis, Janise had no idea what to tell him other than the truth. She sat down on the bed and told Pearce he was sick, but he was going to get through it. From that day forward, those words were their mantra.

"The past 20 years have taught me that strength comes from God and from those who support you when you are too weak on your own, and to always trust your gut if something does not feel right,” said Janise. “I was also reminded that nothing in life happens by accident. The events prior to Pearce’s diagnosis led us to Texas Oncology's pediatric specialists who had extensive knowledge of his cancer type. We could not have been in better hands."

Childhood cancer is every parent’s worst nightmare. However, the one thing that got them through each day was the encouragement, optimism, and no-holds-barred approach of Pearce’s team at Texas Oncology.

Pearce underwent six months of chemotherapy fighting an aggressive, fast-growing cancer. From adverse reactions to treatment and harsh medications, to trips in and out of the intensive care unit, the Murphy family continued to remain positive and hopeful for Pearce to one day return to “just being a kid."

Throughout his treatment, Pearce recalls the optimism of his doctors and nurses that kept him upbeat and positive. Once Pearce completed chemotherapy, his doctors recommended two rounds of immunotherapy as an extra precaution. Even though he missed fifth grade, he spent the summer catching up so he could stay with his classmates.

Living a Fulfilling Life of Ambition

Today, Pearce is living a full and happy life. He went on to graduate from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in film production; started his own video production company, and married the girl of his dreams. Living every day as a gift rather than as a ‘given,’ Pearce credits his cancer for giving him unique perspective on what is actually important in life.

Seeing her child living a full and happy life, Janise could not be prouder of the man Pearce has become. “I know the experience our family shared together through Pearce’s cancer really imprinted on him. His bravery then has become an even a greater source of pride for me now. I think his being in the hospital, helpless as a child, gives him a special kind of empathy and kindness toward others. He is truly a special guy with a strong sense of purpose and a very big heart,” said Janise.

This month marks the 20-year anniversary since the day that made the Murphy family’s world stop.

"To anyone who is going through a similar experience, take time to heal,” said Pearce. “For me, I found healing through the friends who surrounded me, family who supported me, and doctors and nurses who would make me laugh when I did not feel like smiling."

"As a mother, I would advise parents to find great doctors and trust them, they will know what is best for your child,” said Janise. “Accept help when it is offered, because you can’t expect to handle everything on your own. Keep a journal to reflect back on the experience later, and most importantly, do not let a day pass without telling those who mean the most to you that you love them."

As the years have gone by, Pearce and Janise continue to hold tight their mantra of getting through challenges their family may face together and living a life full of ambition and adventure. Never forgetting to celebrate big and small moments along the way.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.