Growing pains were the first symptoms 5-year-old Carson Ross had in his legs and hips. Those pains turned out to be more serious because they were signs of a growing problem within the boy’s body, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The boys’ parents had moved their family to Louisiana after his father William had been transferred.
After learning of their son’s illness, Bonnie Ross said the family moved back to Conway, their home for 30 years. While Bonnie Ross and Carson Ross travel back and forth between Conway and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, William lives in Conway with daughter, Paige, 11, and son, Preston, 8.
Bonnie Ross said because leukemia is a blood cancer, the cancer is in his blood "head to toe."
"It is 96 percent of his bone marrow," she said.
To help the family offset living expenses and traveling expenses, an Orange Ribbon Benefit will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Marguerite Vann Elementary School Cafeteria. The orange ribbon signifies leukemia awareness.
The benefit will feature barbecue from Smitty’s Bar-B-Q and a silent auction with items from a number of local businesses. Among the items collected so far are a collectible car signed by Mark Martin and several restaurant gift certificates from businesses such as Doe’s Eat Place, Michelangelo’s and Mike’s Place.
Phil Blaylock will provide the entertainment.
Also that day, a softball tournament will be held to benefit to the boy. The tournament will begin at 8 a.m. and will be held at the Don Owen Sports Complex. The double-elimination tournament will offer cash prizes and T-shirts to winners.
A home run derby will be a part of the afternoon activities with participants paying $10 to take 10 swings. A raffle will also be held for 10 gift certificates and a Miken Recoil softball bat. The tournament will be played under USSSA rules.
Bonnie Ross said her son began a three-year treatment plan in July.
"It will be three years with no complications," she said. "He has had a hard time with the high doses of chemotherapy and has had seizures."
She said Carson Ross will receive treatments each week until Dec. 10.
His next round of treatments will last four to six weeks. Bonnie Ross said it would be February before he would be able to come home from the second set of treatments.
"The four to six weeks can last longer," Bonnie Ross said. "A lot of things can go on. I am still learning."
Bonnie Ross said her son has also developed neuropathy, a nerve disorder, which will worsen because of the treatments her son will take beginning in December.
The final round of treatments will last 120 weeks with the Rosses headed to Memphis each week for two days of chemotherapy.
Bonnie said her son is very quiet about his disease.
"At 5, it is a lot to handle," she said. "As long as mom stays strong, he stays strong."
She said he is starting to open up about his disease, but at first having all the doctors and nurses performing tests was a lot to handle for a child who had only had immunizations and flu shots.
"He asks when we get to go home and how long we are going to be here," Bonnie Ross said. "I tell him, ‘We will stay until we get the bugs out of your body.’"
Bonnie Ross said she does not know if her son will be able to attend the events in his honor. If his blood count is high enough, he could be home by Wednesday. If his counts need to be raised, Bonnie Ross said he could be home by Friday.
"I am sure his dad and our two other kids will be there," she said.
Even if Carson Ross is able to come to the events, Bonnie Ross said it will not be for very long.
"His body gets tired very quickly. He takes lots of naps. He can’t do like he used to do," Bonnie Ross said.
For more information on the Orange Ribbon benefit, contact Hussman at (501) 269-0045. For information on the softball tournament, contact Erica Barron at (501) 499-0275.