Meet Kid Captain Cormac Faley
Cormac went through more than three years of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments and completed treatment two years ago.
After a low-grade fever, stomachache and nausea turned out to be more than a virus, then-6-year-old Cormac Faley was diagnosed and treated for leukemia at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
“The symptoms were pretty nondescript, nothing that was extremely alarming,” his mother, Jennifer, recalls. “When I picked him up at school, he looked pale, but he was eating normal and playing, so I sent him to school the next day. He got sent home again. I figured it was simply a virus that needed to run its course, as we always hear.”
But when his health didn’t improve and his skin became ashen, Jennifer scheduled an appointment with Cormac’s doctor. A nurse practitioner examined Cormac and ran a blood test; Cormac’s doctor came in later and said the tests showed Cormac had leukemia.
“I remember the tears streaming down my face,” Jennifer recalls. “I remember rubbing Cormac's back over and over as I tried to hold it together. I didn't want to scare him. He was only 6 years old.”
The family was immediately sent to UI Stead Family Children's Hospital.
“I was working in Kansas City, so Jen took him in,” Cormac’s father, Patrick, says. “She was given the news, and then had to make a tough phone call down to me, and the rest of the day from there was a blur. I had a 300-mile drive; I've got no recollection of a single mile of that drive.”
“Our older son, Quin, was very worried about his brother,” Jennifer remembers. “He didn't understand what was happening, other than he was really sick, and needed care.”
Cormac was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer, and was admitted to the hospital.
“They really took the time to explain it,” Patrick recalls, upon hearing the life-changing news. “Really, we had an opportunity to discuss his treatment with most of the key people on the staff.”
Jennifer describes the next few days as “the hardest of our lives.”
“But also during those first few days, we realized that we were in the best place for him and that he was being cared for by an incredible team,” she says. “A team that would soon start to feel like a second family.”
Cormac received his first chemotherapy infusion within days, and his care team made the best of the diagnosis for him.
“He was assigned a video to watch that described his leukemia,” Jennifer recalls. “And he would watch it over and over again to learn about it.”
One challenge was the medication Cormac needed to take.
“At just 6 years old, he hadn't learned to swallow pills, so he needed to take his medications as liquid,” Jennifer remembers. “Horribly tasting liquid that he plainly described as ‘rotten fish mixed with expired mayo.’"
After Cormac developed an oral aversion, couldn't keep medication down, and stopped eating, he received a nasogastric (NG) tube for nourishment and medication, which he relied on for nearly a year.
Cormac finished his last treatment in October 2020 and is now 12.
The seventh-grade Asbury boy aspires to be a Hawkeye baseball player, enjoys Dance Marathon, loves science, and is seen by his care team on an outpatient basis.