Lake Oswego resident Gage Dole is now on the road to recovery after undergoing a bone marrow transplant that his parents hope will give him a new immune system.
Monday marked a momentous day in 5-year-old Gage's battle against secondary leukemia.
On that day, Gage's 'absolute nutrifill count' showed high numbers for the second day in a row.
Those results suggest that the transplanted cells are 'settling in,' healthy and working positively to help Gage, a Hallinan Elementary School student, fight the disease.
Now that Gage's new marrow is considered 'engrafted,' his parents Lauren and Trux hope to see 20 consecutive days of high numbers to feel even more reassured.
They also hope to have Gage eating solid foods and taking medications orally in the upcoming weeks.
'It's unclear where we're at,' Trux said.
The Dole family has been living in Seattle since Feb. 1, after rounds of chemotherapy at Doernbecher Chil-dren's Hospital in Portland prepared Gage's body for the transplant.
Twenty days later, doctors 'hung the bag' of new cells (donated from an anonymous 41-year-old male) and the procedure began.
Gage slept through the entire transplant, which is similar to a blood transfusion and went through a central line in his chest.
The hospital team began watching closely for liver complications and graft vs. host disease or infection, but so far Gage has only experienced mild sickness, rashes and discomfort.
Engraftment typically happens 10 to 28 days after the transplant. On Monday, Gage reached that milestone, and Trux now considers March 19 his son's second birthday - the day he was 'reborn.'
In some ways, Gage's body is like that of a newborn's: Fragile and susceptible to the smallest virus and disease. Even a cold could kill him, Trux added.
So the Doles are taking each day one step at a time. Trux and Lauren alternate 24-hour shifts to be with Gage in the hospital. Gage will continue to undergo various tests and marrow biopsies.
Each day is consumed with keeping Gage occupied - from watching cartoons on TV to home schooling and unhooking him from four different lines to take a bath.
'His energy is coming back,' said Trux, who took eight weeks off of work.
'The upside of the experience is how many other dads get to spend two months just being with their child?,' he said. 'It's not an experience most dads get to have. That's been the silver lining in the cloud.'
The Doles hope to leave Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center within a few weeks and possibly return to Lake Oswego within 100 days if all goes well. Gage could possibly return to Hallinan as a first grader in the fall.
If there's no reoccurrence of the cancer within five years, Gage will be considered a survivor. The first year, however, is always the most risky.
Trux is worried about the long-time effect of medications on Gage's organs and the return of the cancer.
'There's always the risk it could come back,' Trux said.
The Doles thanked the Lake Oswego, Hallinan and Lake Grove Presbyterian Church communities for their prayers and money and food contributions.