The seeds of Kourtney Smith’s melon-sized tumor may have taken root in his liver as far back 2007, around the time of his premature birth, but it wasn’t until February of this year that his liver cancer was detected and the fight to save his life began.
His doctors prescribed enemas to free what appeared to be an intestinal clog after Kourtney complained about a stomach ache one Friday last January, says his Nana, Gloria “Peanut” Battle. She says he displayed none of the tell-tell signs of liver cancer, such as fevers or jaundice’s skin yellowing dye.
“He didn’t get any better Saturday and he woke up screaming and crying on Sunday night,” Battle says. “We took him back to the emergency room and they performed an ultrasound and other tests. They said they saw something around his liver but didn’t know what it was.”
Kourtney’s family consulted with his gastroenterologist in Atlanta, who sent the family home to Valdosta while he consulted with other doctors on the 5-year-old’s ultrasound.
“Kourtney had an appointment with his dentist scheduled shortly after the Atlanta trip,” says Battle. “But the gastroenterologist called back and told us that we needed to go to the hospital instead. She said she had already made arrangements for us.”
A biopsy was performed and Kourtney spent two weeks in the hospital, Battle said, but a diagnosis couldn’t be declared. He was discharged for a week, before the nerve-numbing news of cancer came back.
“He came home for a week, then they called us back for chemo,” says Battle. “The tumor was so large that the doctors said they were surprised he had carried it for so long without showing symptoms.”
It was so big, says Battle, that it had pushed under his rib cage and against his back. Kourtney’s chemo treatments began in late February and lasted roughly four months, she says.
“The chemo was strong,” she says. “It shrank the tumor from the size of a watermelon down to about a quarter of that size, all in under four weeks.”
Surgery followed chemo. After some recovery time, Kourtney endured another round of chemo in May.
The second time around, chemo really took a toll on him.
“The nurse knew he was in pain,” says his sister, Aaliyah Andrews. “They would ask him to point out the areas where the pain was most intense, and he just say ‘no where.’”
Nurses struggle to inject nutrition into Kourtney’s veins and were surprised by Battle’s patient, yet effective approach. Battle says she administered his intravenous fluids orally, rather than through his arm, and spent hours on end alternating between a small dose and a cooling cloth.
While Battle was making progress, Kourtney’s body was still under heavy fire.
The chemo began damaging the good part of his liver, Battle said, so doctors switched to a Vinca alkaloid to continue the assault on the cancer.
“The Vincristine began to affect his hearing,” says Battle. “At some point, his hearing is supposed to go completely. But that’s the doctors’ diagnosis, not God’s.”
Kourtney has already lost 17 percent of his hearing, mainly on the high end of the spectrum, and he now wears a brace to support his right leg, says Kourtney’s mother, Owedia Andrews.