DM kid looks forward to Big Event, finishing cancer treatment


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High-pitched pings bounced off the walls of the hospital waiting room, just as the Pokemon character did on the screen of Paden Lindquist’s portable Nintendo DSi.

Sitting in a royal blue wheelchair and wrapped in his camouflage-pattern Snuggie, the 8-year-old was waiting to have his first Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Jan. 20.

“They want to know if you have any tattoos or piercings,” his mother, Missi Lindquist, said, as she filled out his paperwork.

“What?” Paden demanded, looking up from his video game and grabbing the clipboard from his mom. “Let me see that.”

The scan was to detect avascular necrosis, a bone-deterioration disease that can occur because of a high-dosage of steroids.

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The always smiling Paden is used to hospitals visits. But after nearly three years with cancer, his treatment will finish in three months.

Paden doesn’t look as though he has cancer. He has a full head of hair, which began to grow back about seven months ago. He’s energetic, his cheeks are usually flushed, and even though he’s not allowed in gym class, he’s back to school full-time.

Lindquist smiles brightly when talking about her son’s now-shaggy hair, saying it’s “funny” to see him with it again, especially because his tresses are now a few shades darker.

Paden, who has soft blue eyes, had just turned 6 when he was diagnosed with ALL Philadelphia Chromosome Positive, a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a cancer that affects white blood cells.

He was sick and coughing, Lindquist said, which “wasn’t really uncommon.” But after a doctor noticed an elevated white blood count, the family went to the UIHC.

The drive to Iowa City from Clinton is one the entire family has become familiar with since Paden was diagnosed on April 1, 2008. Paden and his mother have spent the last three years in and out of the UIHC, usually every two to three weeks, but sometimes as often as three times a week.

“And that’s not including fevers and stuff,” Lindquist said.

Two of Paden’s brothers — Jordan, 15, and Tim, 11 — go with them when they can take time off from school. A third brother, Brian Chisholm, is away at college.

“I’ve actually gone out to the university in ice storms, blizzards, you do what you gotta do,” Lindquist said. “[Hospital staff] are like family to me. It’s funny, I can tell you which nurse had a husband, how many kids they had, and usually [the kids’] names.”

Paden’s oncologist, Janice Staber, said Paden has stayed strong throughout his treatment.

“He’s been a real champion,” she said. “He makes me laugh. He keeps me on his toes.”

Paden spends his days in between hospital visits learning in Krystal Haskell’s classroom at Bluff Elementary School in Clinton. This is the first year since he’s been sick that he has gone to school for the entire day. Last year, he would only go for half days.

Haskell’s class, which consists of a total of six students including Paden, is for third- and fourth-graders with behavioral problems. Paden is only part of the classroom because it is safer for him to be surrounded by fewer kids.

But once a day Paden joins the other children — a preview of what an integrated co-ed classroom will be like for him next year.

Paden sat in front of a laptop Jan. 21, filling in the blanks of a worksheet about famous Iowans.

Paden, whose favorite books are the Arthur series, was searching for the name “George Washington Carver,” who he said, “invented peanut butter and was president of the United States, but they split his name down the middle.”

As he walked down the hallway in his red Crocs in the shape of a character from Cars, he insisted only teachers could step on the red tiles — actually lava — but anyone else had to avoid them.
Paden’s sense of humor does not go unnoticed at the school.

“The best thing is the smile he brings to the classroom; he’s a humor-filled child,” Haskell said, smiling with her dimples aligned with her blond, chin-length hair. “To go through so much and have a bright shiny attitude, it’s great. You just look at him and smile.”

Paden is also an avid sharer. If his classmates, such as Zaiden or Justin, need a piece of loose-leaf paper or a pencil to write with, Paden is the first to offer.

Haskell said she was cold in the classroom one day after Christmas break, when Paden insisted that she use his blanket.

“He was like, ‘I’ll share my blanket with you Mrs. Haskell,’ ” she said, smiling brightly.

But the normally talkative video-game enthusiast refuses to discuss one thing: his disease or treatment.

He says he doesn’t remember his treatments or diagnosis.

Paden only has four treatments left of the chemotherapy vincristine, which damages the DNA to prevent replication of the tumor cells.

“Once May comes, we are completely done, and basically what they tell me is we wait,” Lindquist said. “But we wait to see if it comes back, that’s what the problem is.”

She said her calmness and strength when she was told that her youngest of four sons had cancer are still talked about in the hospital today.

“The nurses and them were talking and said, ‘The one thing we remembered was we’d never seen anybody so calm,’ ” Missi said. “All I said was, ‘OK, what’s next?’ ”

As the winter days pass, there is one day in particular Paden’s been looking forward to since last winter — Dance Marathon Day.

The “Big Event,” which means the entire family will travel to Iowa City today, is where Paden will reconnect with friends and play games in his favorite room — the game room.

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