Williamsburg boy about to mark five years of being cancer free

WILLIAMSBURG – Isaiah Aurandt is a typical 8-year-old boy. He is a second-grader at Williamsburg Elementary School, where he likes science and recess. He is energetic and has various interests, including basketball, piano, dance and Legos.

Not so typical is the scar on Isaiah’s side, a visual reminder of extraordinary circumstances when he was younger.

“That’s what I had when I was fighting cancer,” Isaiah said.

Isaiah’s mother, Ellen Jane Aurandt, had a feeling something was wrong on New Year’s Eve in 2008. Isaiah, then 3, was fussy that day and said his stomach felt “itchy.”

He fell asleep that afternoon, and Ellen, a nurse, felt along his side and discovered a mass that extended under his ribs.

“At that time I started to panic inside,” Ellen said.

Ellen called the pediatrician, and because of the holiday, most of the staff had gone home early. Some nurses at the office offered a few suggestions, like a warm bath. Eventually, Isaiah started to cry, and the family took him to the emergency room at Altoona.

Doctors performed tests and discovered a mass that was most likely cancer and decided Isaiah should go to a children’s hospital, Ellen said. The family decided on Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, and Isaiah went there on New Year’s Day.

Isaiah was eventually diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor, a type of kidney cancer, Ellen said. An operation to remove the brick-sized growth and Isaiah’s kidney were scheduled for Jan. 8. After that, Isaiah had a week of radiation treatments to be followed by chemotherapy.

Following surgery and radiation, Isaiah was allowed to return home, but chemotherapy had to be administered at the hospital.

The family made the two-hour drive from Williamsburg to Danville every week for 10 weeks and then once every three weeks until July of that year, Rusty Aurandt, Isaiah’s father, said.

“It was our whole life,” Rusty said. “It took up everything.”

After finishing chemotherapy, Isaiah had testing at a Geisinger clinic in Altoona a few times a year, Ellen said. The results have been good, and Isaiah will be cancer free for five years in July.

Isaiah remembers very little about the experience because he was so young, Ellen said.

“Child amnesia,” Isaiah said. “Can’t remember anything.”

The memories he does have are positive and of toys and a playroom at the children’s hospital, Ellen said. Another memory is of drinking an orange, chalky, foul-tasting liquid required for CAT scans. As a result, Isaiah has an aversion to orange drinks, she said.

This year, Isaiah was chosen as one of the miracle kids for the Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger and will take part in the organization’s Celebration Weekend at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton. Two other miracle kids from the region also will take part.

Children with unique or inspirational stories are selected based on nominations from staff members at the hospital, said Mike McMullen, Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger spokesman.

The celebration is a way to highlight the hospital and sponsors and also to show how donations impact local children, McMullen said.

The event runs from May 31 to June 1.