Steven Edmonds – Rhabdomyosarcoma

Learn more about Steven's experience with Rhabdomyosarcoma at Children's Hospital.

Kahney Martin never would have imagined that a chewy pastry would figure prominently in the diagnosis of her then 14-year-old son’s cancer.

In October 2005, her son, Steven Edmonds, bit into a pecan roll and broke off a piece of his braces, causing the metal wire to puncture his mouth tissue. Mother and son both attributed the swelling in his left check to the broken braces, but after several days of taking Tylenol® with no decrease in the swelling, Kahney took Steven to the emergency room at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

After an examination, a CT scan, an MRI and a nasal biopsy, his diagnosis was confirmed: Steven had rhabdomyosarcoma, characterized by fast-growing tumors that account for more than half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children.

Kahney was stunned by the diagnosis. “He’d never been sick,” she says. “He never even got colds.”

Rhabdomyosarcoma, or rhabdo for short, often causes a noticeable lump on a child’s body, and more than a third of these tumors are found in the head and neck or around the eyes. Rhabdo accounts for roughly 8 percent of all childhood cancers.

Over the course of a year, Steven successfully underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the rhabdomysarcoma in his cheek, but there was a residual mass remaining in his sinus at the end of planned therapy.

Through UPMC Children’s collaborative relationship with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Steven was sent to UPMC Presbyterian for surgery in late October 2006. Surgeons removed what was left of the mass by reaching it through his nostrils, causing no external scarring to Steven’s face.

It was a tough freshman year of high school for Steven, but through it all, his mother proudly reports that he maintained his honor roll status. He’s still an honor student as a sophomore — even after his surgery and the eight weeks of home schooling that were required during his recovery. Now it’s back to school as usual.

Kahney attributes Steven’s successful recovery to his hard work during his illness and their strong faith in God. “I felt it was important for Steven to stay focused,” Kahney says. “I said to Steven, ‘Let the doctors do their part, I’m going to do my part and you have to do your part.’ And he did.”