Roseville child battles, defeats rare shoulder cancer

7/20/2015

Noah Gochanour, 8, of Roseville, loves to run and play outside. But, about a year ago, he started complaining about pain that wouldn’t go away.

“Very sporadically, he would say, ‘Ow, my shoulder hurts.’ At first, I just thought, he’s hurting himself… I told him that if he quit launching off furniture, his shoulder wouldn’t hurt,” Sara Gochanour, Noah’s mother, said. 

Sara knew it was time to get her son evaluated when he told her his arm wasn’t working right. He couldn’t lift it. Noah also had a visible mass on his back.

Beaumont Children’s Hospital doctors evaluated Noah and discovered the reason for his pain and discomfort: a tumor.

“She said, ‘Sara, Noah has Ewing’s Sarcoma. I need you to breathe.’ Then, she started talking about other stuff, but I didn’t hear it because it was the scariest moment of my life,” Sara said.

Kate Gowans, M.D., section head, pediatric hematology and oncology, Beaumont Children's Hospital, says, “It is the second most common primary bone tumor that we see in pediatrics. All cancer in children is rare. Bone tumors are particularly unusual. They require a lot of therapy and intense chemotherapy over almost a year’s time.”

The American Cancer Society says about 1 percent of all childhood tumors are Ewing tumors. Doctors diagnose 225 children and teens with Ewing tumors in North America each year. A Ewing tumor in the shoulder blade is especially rare.

Soon after the diagnosis, Dr. Gowans met with the family and mapped out a treatment plan.

Noah Gochanour and his mother, Sara Gochanour, smile after Noah's final chemotherapy treatment.Noah Gochanour and his mother, Sara Gochanour, smile
after Noah receives his final chemotherapy treatment.

“It helped because I didn’t have to do a lot of the thinking. I was a mess. I didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. What’s Ewing’s sarcoma? I never heard of anything like that,” Sara said.

Noah admits, “We were all mad and sad because I had cancer.”

Because the cancer was so aggressive, Kimberly Les, M.D., section head, orthopedic tumors and oncology, Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak, removed Noah’s shoulder blade.

“It was a bit of shock. I didn’t even know you could do something like that,” Sara said.

Dr. Les assured Sara, “Young kids can adapt very well. Noah still has full use of his hand, his wrist and his elbow.”

Chemotherapy continued after the surgery, every other week. The treatments can make patients feel ill. Noah never flinched. Through it all, his family was by his side, including his new baby sister.

“He’s a vigorous young man. He has great family support.  Once he returns back to school in the fall, when you watch him walk down the hall or doing an activity, you would never know he’s missing a shoulder blade,” Dr. Les added.

A series of tests confirmed Noah is disease free and ready to trade all those days in the hospital for a lifetime of happy memories.

“It’s why we all love what we do. It’s why I love to work with kids. They are tough. They are resilient. They’re fun. They are funny. You can tell when they don’t feel good. All they want to do is play,” Dr. Gowans said.

Noah’s mother is grateful her son can focus on being a kid again, instead of worrying about cancer.

“He’s had an amazing set of doctors working with him. They’ve been with me every step of the way,” Sara said, “My 8-year-old boy is much stronger than I am. He is resilient and amazing.”