Max Kusza turns 3 this week and celebrated being two years cancer free April 1. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at eight months old and had surgery in 2019 to remove a tumor.

Max Kusza turns 3 this week and celebrated being two years cancer free April 1. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at eight months old and had surgery in 2019 to remove a tumor.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Local youngster celebrates two years cancer free

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 5, 2021

 Max is pictured with his father, Mitch. For his upcoming birthday, Max wants an airplane.

Max is pictured with his father, Mitch. For his upcoming birthday, Max wants an airplane.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — It was a cause worth recognizing for Max Kusza.

April 1 marked two years of Kusza being cancer free. He also turns 3 on April 10.

In marking the two-year anniversary, special signage was proudly displayed on the front lawn of the family’s Macomb Township home that read “Heroes come in all sizes! Super Max.” Additionally, visits were made by members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office via a drive-by with lights and sirens, an officer from the Fraser Department of Public Safety presenting Max with a challenge coin, and workers from GFL Environmental stopping by.

“We cherish this day so much,” Kusza’s mom Ashley Kusza said.

Max, who loves Scooby Doo and wants an airplane for his birthday, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at eight months old.

The Mayo Clinic describes neuroblastoma as a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body, most commonly in and around the adrenal glands. It often affects children age 5 or younger.  

In describing Max’s health background, Ashley said he seemed completely fine as a baby, and one day while rubbing his belly, felt something hard.  

“I thought we’ll let it go, then I made a doctor appointment to get it checked,” she said. “We went for an ultrasound, and my doctor said they found a mass there.”

The family then went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit for testing, where it was revealed the tumor was malignant.

“It came back neuroblastoma, which they said was more curable,” she said. “Since he was under 1, he had a really good cure rate. After 1, the percentage goes down.”

Ashley said the mass was about 8 x 6 x 7 centimeters in the tissue of his abdomen.

Max went through four rounds of chemotherapy from December 2018 to March 2019 and was considered intermediate risk for his cancer stage.

“They did a bone marrow biopsy, and they thought they saw it,” she said. “They put him on medicine to boost his white blood cells after treatment, which the people reading the bone marrow results didn’t realize, so it mimicked cancer cells.”

At that point, Ashley and her husband Mitch were told the cancer was in his bone marrow.

“We panicked and had to tell all of our family,” Ashley said. “Then she called back saying she was so, so sorry and had great news.”

Not knowing Max was on Neupogen, a bone marrow stimulant, doctors told the family there was no cancer in his bone marrow.

Max had surgery April 1, 2019, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to remove the tumor. Ashley said the hospital is very good with young neuroblastoma patients.

“They were the only ones really confident they could get all of his tumor out,” she said. “I asked at that point if we consider him cancer free, and they said yes.”

Mitch said this time of year, he tends to shut down emotionally.

“Going through it with him, I just blocked everything out and it was only the cancer, it wasn’t my son,” he said. “I try to stay numb to it.”

Mitch said a challenging part of Max receiving treatment was the stress of making sure he was being taken care of, as well as Max’s older sister Alivia.

“It’s definitely challenging, that’s for sure,” Mitch said.

Going forward, Ashley said there’s always the fear of neuroblastoma coming back. Once a year, Max will be scanned and, after five years, the chance of it returning significantly decreases.

Advertisement