Three time childhood cancer survivor

Hollywood, MD- One battle with leukemia is one too many. For Adam Lumpkins, he had to fight off the disease three times in his short life.

Adam, who is now 11, was first diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2008—he was just 21 months old. The diagnosis, which was delivered on Christmas Eve, was devastating news to his parents, Chris and Jamie, of King George, VA, and their two other children, Christopher and Raegan.

Jamie said it started with an ear infection that did not improve with antibiotics. Adam then developed small red bruising on his legs. “When we took him to the doctor to have those checked out, we are not expecting to leave that day with a diagnosis of cancer in our baby boy.”

Adam had to spend Christmas and New Years in the hospital receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatments. After several weeks, he was given the green light to return home, while continuing chemo treatments weekly.

During his fight, Adam remained brave for such a young boy. Though weak, friends say he always had a smile on his face.

After several years in the clear, Adam fell very ill again. In January of 2011, he started exhibiting flu-like symptoms. He was eventually admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus), pneumonia and ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). While in the hospital, Adam was placed in a medically induced coma—but his condition worsened.

To give Adam the best chance of survival, doctors decided to place him on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation). This would essentially assume all of his bodily functions to include pumping and exchanging oxygen in his blood. A normal child would stand about a 50 percent survival rate on ECMO. Doctors said Adam would have half that chance. 

His family prayed for a miracle—and their prayers were answered. Only hours before the ECMO treatment was to be started, Adam began to improve. After being in a coma for nearly a month, he was discharged on Feb. 4, 2011.

Sadly, Adam’s return home was short lived. In March of 2011, it appeared Adam had pink eye but the treatments weren’t working. Much to his family’s shock, Adam’s leukemia returned. He received more invasive treatments to help his tiny body battle the cancer.

Again, his fight didn’t dampen his spirits. Adam remained positive, with a witty sense of humor and an uplifting spirit.
But his fight was far from over.
On June 27, 2012, Adam began to have trouble breathing. He was rushed to VCU Hospital in Richmond, where he was treated for his leukemia. His breathing became so bad that he was admitted to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), intubated and placed on a ventilator while being given antibiotics, steroids, sedation and pain medication through numerous IVs. Adam was diagnosed with Pneumocystic Pneumonia. After over two weeks on the ventilator, Adam’s stomach became hard and distended. A scan showed a perforation to his bowel and on July 17, 2012 he underwent emergency surgery.

Adam’s delicate condition made surgery extremely risky. The perforation was repaired and a colostomy bag was placed. Adam came through the surgery and continued to fight. A few days later, after being on the ventilator for 25 days, Adam had enough and pulled his tube out.

Adam’s condition slowly started to improve and he did not need to be placed back on the vent. After some time, he was moved out of the PICU and into a regular room. On August 7, 2012, after being hospitalized for 42 days, Adam was released to go home.

Weeks later, he started having belly pain. Doctors determined his gallbladder was infected with gangrene and had to go. Adam underwent another surgery and again came out fighting.

On Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, after being hospitalized for severe head pain, Jamie and Chris got the devastating news that Adam's leukemia spread to his cerebral spinal fluid and the lining of his brain. Adam needed a bone marrow transplant.

Again, his family said their prayers were answered when an anonymous donor matched Adam and he received the transplant in 2013 and was in remission. Adam officially celebrated five years cancer-free on his 11th birthday—yesterday March 15.
“After his bone marrow transplant, we were told two years post-transplant, we would be able to take a huge sigh of relief. Five years after that we would be out of the woods,” explained Jamie.

The years of treatments and medications took a toll on young Adam. “He received such large doses of radiation and chemo during his early stages of life, that it delayed his cognitive function.” Jamie noted. The family is still working to get him caught up to where he needs to be. “We did hold him back a grade in order to make sure he was meeting all of his benchmarks and to not push him too fast.”

Jamie said Adam’s school is also helping. “He has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help get him where he needs to be. We also have him enrolled in tutoring that he does online twice a week and with a tutor in person once a week.”

While Adam catches up on school work, he’s also making up for lost time being a kid. He’s active in sports and after playing soccer for several years, he’s starting his second season of flag football. “It is definitely nice being able to see him living life like a normal kid outside of those hospital walls.” Jamie reflected.

As Adam works to live a normal life, he’s reminded of his battles daily as he is still required to take medication. The cancer treatments destroyed his thyroid and pituitary glands and stunned his growth and he takes growth hormones. “He also has to have an IGG infusion every other week to keep his immune system where it needs to be. His immune system still has not rebounded after the transplant,” Jamie explained.

Adam also has to take special care when he is outside, always wears sunscreen and avoids secondhand smoke. Jamie said because he developed polyps from his treatments, Adam also has to undergo upper and lower GI scopes every three to six months. “He sees numerous specialists for continuous care every three months.”

Jamie said the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) stepped up and helped them understand the bone marrow transplant process, how it would help and what to expect. “LLS is an important organization that continues supporting the search for a cure as well as providing resources and information to those fighting this difficult battle and to their family members.”

Donating bone marrow could save someone’s life. “It’s reasonably simple and your body replenishes its bone marrow. People that are in need of a bone marrow transplant don't always have time in their favor. If it wasn't for someone donating their marrow to Adam, he would not still be with us,” Jamie reflected.

Jamie said fighting childhood cancer is a reality too many parents have to face. “The best thing you can do is to remain strong. At least on the outside because they get their strength from you.” Jamie also encourages parents to be an advocate for their child. “Say something when something doesn't feel or seem right. You know your child better than anybody.”

While it is a long, heartbreaking battle, Jamie said lean on those closest to you. “You will feel defeated at times. Reach out to others that have been through similar situations. Those people closest to you will be what helps get you through victoriously.”

You can support the research and treatment efforts of LLS on Saturday, March 17 at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds for the first annual Fly4ACure Kite Festival. All proceeds will benefit LLS. For more information about the event, click here.

As for Adam’s recollection, Jamie said he remembers a lot, even the food he was craving. He recalls the surgeries he underwent and what each scar is for. And while his family and friends believe it’s a miracle he survived, Jamie said Adam tells them he has more living to do. “He does talk quite a bit about meeting God during the times he was sedated. He provides quite a bit of detail about what heaven and God look like and what God tells him. He says God told him it's not his time yet.”

Contact Joy Shrum at

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