Trucker Dukes, the youngest son of Maui fire fighter Joshua Dukes and Maui jewelry maker Shauna Dukes, was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that has spread to 50% of his body. The 20-month old has an older sister and two older brothers.
“A few months before I took him to the doctor he had a fever for a week,” Shauna said. “His molars were coming in, so I thought, ‘Man, he’s just a fussy teether.’ Later, we found out that it is really common for neuroblastoma patients to have a fever.” Trucker’s fever and irritability returned a few weeks later and Shauna’s mom noticed that his stomach looked distended.
“He’s always had a big ‘opu, he’s a really good eater, so I didn’t think too much of it,” Shauna said. “My mom felt his stomach, she’s actually the one who found it. It was hard as a rock.” Shauna took him to the pediatrician that morning on November 24, 2014.
“He also had a little black eye, and the doctor asked how he got it. I didn’t know. Now in retrospect, I know that black eyes are signs of neuroblastoma and I think that is what alerted the doctor.” Shauna continues, “I expected her to say, ‘He has an infection, go home, here are some antibiotics.’” Instead, Shauna was told he had a big mass in his stomach and more tests on Oahu were needed. A low hemoglobin count required a blood transfusion on Maui “I feel like I haven’t really woke up from the nightmare ever since.”
“The shock of your baby having a blood transfusion is huge. Now he’s had eight and chemo. It’s amazing how you adjust to your new normal. I was freaking out one day when I was talking to the oncologist,” Shauna said. “Under normal circumstances, you would never give your kid this much stuff.”
The oncologist asked her if she surfed. Shauna, a surfer who met Joshua while surfing at Honolua Bay in 2004, said yes. The doctor said that he was not a good surfer and when he falls off a wave into the white wash, he feels like he’s never going to come up. Then he relaxes and pops right up. “He told me, ‘Well, you’re in the white wash right now. You need to relax and accept your new normal and then you’ll be able to breathe,” Shauna said. “He’s so right. If they are not giving him all these medications then he’s going to lose his life. It is so scary, the thought of giving him chemo. They are trying to save his life. I’m trying to let go of my old normal. I’m still letting go.”
The family moved to Oahu in December 2014 where he is scheduled for six rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting 21 days. Monetary donations to the “Trucker Dukes Cancer Fund” can be made online and at any Bank of Hawaii branch. Regular updates on Trucker and fundraising events are posted on www.facebook.com/teamtrucker.
“People tell me, ‘You’re so strong’ but you don’t have a choice,” Shauna said. “I just say, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t know what else to say. When you’re in it, you just do what you have to. There are no other options. You have to be strong.”
Image Credit: Shauna Dukes