“You wouldn’t even know Cutler ever had cancer unless he pulled up his shirt to show off his second belly button,” said Cutler Fricke’s father, Aaron.
Cutler, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, North Texas Chapter’s 2014 Links Fore Leukemia Golf Tournament honored hero, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) on September 11, 2009, just a few days shy of being six months old.
“It was like a punch to the gut, it kind of knocked all of the wind out of us,” Aaron said. “At that point we didn’t even know what leukemia really was.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, AML is only found in two of every 100,000 children less than one-year-old. In addition to the low rate of occurrence, less than 50 percent of children diagnosed with AML are cured of the disease.
Cutler was said to be in remission after the first round of chemotherapy but the doctors believed a second round of chemo would be helpful until they could find a matching donor for a blood transplant. After finding out his older brother Mason wasn’t a match, the blood bank was able to find a donor whose umbilical cord blood allowed for a successful stem-cell transplant.
Within three months of the transplant, Cutler was released from the hospital and sent home with just a G-tube—the source of his second belly button—in place until he could eat on his own again.
The transplant has since allowed for Cutler to lead the life of a normal four-year-old. He goes to school, spends time with his brother, and even plays sports like baseball and soccer.
His dad says that Cutler has even begun skating and hitting golf balls so that he can eventually play hockey and golf like his older brother, Mason.
“Golf is a big part of my life,” Aaron said. “I played in the Links Fore Leukemia Golf Tournament for the first time last year but I ultimately hope we can compete as a family team with Mason, Cutler, my dad, and myself.”
Today the Frickes spare no opportunities to help LLS. Since Cutler has been in remission, Aaron and his wife, Melanie, have been involved with LLS through Light the Night, Team in Training, and Links Fore Leukemia Golf Tournament.
Fortunately the Frickes didn’t need financial assistance from the LLS, and the support from their family and friends allowed for Aaron and Melanie to be present every day that Cutler was in the hospital.
“We walked past rooms in the hospital where we would see kids all alone because their parents had to work,” Aaron said.
“It really enlightened us to the reality of the situation and helped us to see where the money and services provided by LLS is going to its best use.”
Aaron says that the compassion his family received, and the ever present need for awareness and donations is what inspires the Frickes to do whatever they can for LLS.
“When LLS asks us to do something we don’t even bat an eye,” Aaron said. “This all occurred for a reason, and we believe that reason is to help raise money for LLS so that they can find a cure and raise awareness. We just want to give back what was given to us.”
Join Culter at the 2014 Links Fore Leukemia Golf Tournament presented by Venari Resources on Monday, May 12th by reserving your foursome now. Register here.
John Jacob Hough, a University of North Texas student, provided this post.