The Champ: The Fight Continues

By  | January 29, 2019 | Filed under: News

Back in June of 2018, I wrote an article about Hayden Qualls, who at that time was 11 years old and had fought Leukemia 3 times.  I was happy to report that Hayden had bought the disease again.  You can read the full article here:

“The Champ”


Hayden is a true fan of Professional Wrestling which is how I met him.  He was given the nickname of “The Champ” because he has fought the 3 bouts with Leukemia.  Hayden is full of life and continues to live that life to the fullest.  He doesn’t let his condition get him down.

Researching Leukemia, I found the following about the disease:

   “Leukemia is cancer of blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow. Many types exist such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


   Many patients with slow-growing types of leukemias don’t have symptoms. Rapidly growing types of leukemia may cause symptoms that include fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections, and easy bleeding or bruising.


    Treatment is highly variable. For slow-growing leukemias, treatment may include monitoring. For aggressive leukemias, treatment includes chemotherapy that’s sometimes followed by radiation and stem-cell transplant”


Hayden’s treatment is the aggressive type.  Hayden’s father, Bryan is a single father with a daughter.  Bryan has stayed by Hayden’s side during this ordeal.  I asked Bryan to tell the readers about Hayden’s condition.  Bryan told me the following:


       “ So Hayden was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Sept. 4 2014 after seeing his pediatrician for a fever and bruising/petechiae. His doctor drew blood and sent samples to Hematology and Oncology at Children’s of Alabama where they immediately recognized abnormal cells in his sample that looked like leukemia blast cells. We were told to go immediately to Children’s. We were admitted into the hospital. On Sept. 5 he was in surgery having his port put in place. A lumbar puncture with chemo and bone marrow biopsy were also performed. 


   The first step in protocol was to begin a very aggressive 30 day induction treatment consisting of a combination of chemo drugs. The goal is to have the patient in remission after the initial 30 days. We spent about five days in the hospital. After being home for a few days Hayden woke up in the middle of the night with extreme pain in his lower extremities and abdominal pain. After getting to the emergency room, it was determined that he had developed pancreatitis from one of the medicines, pegaspargase, he was taking.


     The leg pain was neuropathy. These are common side effects of treatment. The pegaspargase was immediately stopped and gabapentin was already being taken for the neuropathy. All this began an almost four month stay in the hospital that consisted of many, many, many infections that comes along with treatment due to the fact of a compromised immune system. Meningitis, fungal and bacterial infections just to name a few.


     After the initial 30 day treatment it was determined that the leukemia was still present in Hayden’s bone marrow and he was not considered to be in remission. So we continued treatment. On two occasions his port line tested positive for infection and had to be removed and a new port placed. Around the end of November he FINALLY turned the corner and began showing progress and a week before Christmas 2014 we were released from the hospital.

    In January 2015 Hayden was officially considered to be in remission. The treatment that followed consisted of several different phases with the ultimate goal of getting to maintenance phase. It was during this time that Hayden began to watch professional wrestling. I honestly believe that he began drawing his strength from this. His favorite wrestler quickly became John Cena and we adopted his mottos of “Never Give Up” and our play on his “U can’t C Me” with “Cancer Can’t C Me”.


     During this treatment Hayden did pretty well with a few hospital stays which was expected. In July 2015 Hayden was in maintenance. He continued to do well with treatment. It was during this time in November of 2015 that Make-A-Wish granted Hayden’s wish to meet the cast of Duck Dynasty. This was very important part of his treatment because for one week it was like he wasn’t sick.


    Then, in February 2017, during a routine doctor visit with lumbar puncture leukemia blast cells were found in a sample of his spinal fluid. Once again Hayden would have to go through a very aggressive 30 day induction treatment. This was the point when Hayden took on the persona of “The Champ”. This was another way that we found to keep his morale boosted which I believe is very important during times like these. Within two weeks the spinal fluid was clear of blast cells and what was supposed to be a month stay in the hospital was over in two weeks.


    After 30 days Hayden was once again in remission and just like the first time around this treatment consisted of multiple phases. one difference this time around was we had a choice between normal combination chemotherapy or a new study drug called blinatumimab. We chose, and Hayden qualified for, the blinatumimab which we felt would be a better option due to the fact that it was one drug rather than a combination of multiple chemo drugs. This treatment meant that Hayden would be hooked up to a small pump and the blinatumimab would be continuously infused for 27 days. It was after the first round of blinatumimab that thing began to get bad. From June to August 2017 Hayden was in the hospital with multiple trips to the ICU on a breathing machine due to septic shock from a compromised immune system due to treatment.


    It was also during this time that he experienced a neurological side effect from the blinatumimab. It was determined to not continue the blinatumimab and skip him ahead to maintenance therapy since there had not been any signs of the disease in months. The toll of all the years of treatment was beginning to affect Hayden and his body. He had developed gall stones that were causing a lot of abdominal pain so his doctors felt it necessary to remove his gall bladder. From September to December 2017 Hayden was doing pretty well with everything and then he began to not act like himself. I took him into clinic and we were admitted into the hospital with fever. While in the hospital Hayden began to experience respiratory failure and was back in ICU on a ventilator.


     While in ICU he began to retain fluid and had to be put on dialysis. Because of all of the recent issue that Hayden had been experiencing it was decided that after his cranial radiation treatment they would discontinue his treatment. So, in January 2018, after cranial radiation, treatment was stopped to allow his body to heal. Then, on March 22, 2018, during a routine clinic visit lab work once again showed signs of leukemia blast cells. Hayden had once again relapsed. Further results from a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy also showed signs of leukemia. So now He is engaging in his third battle against cancer. He is currently waiting to begin a new therapy known as CAR T Cell Therapy.


Hayden was able to fight back the Leukemia for the third time.  Sadly, just before Christmas 2018, Bryan posted on Facebook that he believed that the Leukemia had returned.   Further test did in fact show that this was true.  Bryan began to post on Facebook for friends, family and supporters a journal of Hayden’s journey for this bout with the disease.  Below are the posts from Bryan:


    -Now that Christmas is behind us, the onslaught of doctors’ appointments, tests and scans has begun in preparation for transplant day. Pulmonary clinic to check his lungs out and BMT clinic for lab work yesterday. He has tested positive for rhinovirus, which I suspected since he began sniffling the other day. They will do another VRP on Monday. Dentist and consultation with BMT doctor today. We go back to dentist in the morning to have a baby tooth with cavity pulled and teeth cleaned. CT scan set for Monday. Surgery to have another central line put in scheduled for Wednesday. Consultation with his radiation doctor on Thursday. Final consultation with BMT team and signing consent papers next Friday. Try to get into the woods next weekend before being admitted into the hospital on Jan. 7. Begin chemo and radiation in preparation for bone marrow transplant on Jan. 16. Can you say BUSY?!!! We ask that you continue to send thoughts and prayers for The Champ. He has a very long and difficult road ahead of him

     -The Champ is ready for surgery to have his lines placed for his transplant on the 16th.

-Hayden update (From Kylie Helms):
Today my favorite boy checked into Children’s of AL where he will continue his 4th and very aggressive fight with cancer. This week he will undergo radiation twice a day. Hayden is scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant on January 16th. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. Minimum stay for BMT is FOURTY DAYS. Last night at home we watched as Bryan got him get ready for battle. I have to brag on Bryan Qualls for a second… He is one heck of a dad/nurse! 

I shared some personal photos of Hayden’s journey. It breaks my heart that he and a million other kids (and adults) have to go through this. This is just a small part o what they have to go though. I will post Hayden updates throughout this journey!

   Keep praying for him as well as the donor! It’s going to be a rough ride for him. He is a fighter and certainly the strongest boy I know!

Already counting the days to when my boys come home

   -Day 1 of total body radiation twice a day. One step closer to transplant day. The Champ is still feeling strong and ready to lay the smack down on leukemia!

Starting chemo for the next few days!

“Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for my glorious intervention. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.”


   -The Champ finished Cytoxan and began ATG yesterday. The ATG is what’s going to kill off all his t-cells, which fight infections, to get his body ready for the t-cells in the new marrow he will be receiving on Wednesday. One of the side effects of the ATG is fevers and once again, in true Champ fashion, what we expected to happen didn’t happen. He did not have any fevers yesterday. He did develop a cough but his lungs sound good and x-rays were good. So they put him on scheduled Benadryl, hence him sleeping at the moment. He will receive the ATG today and tomorrow, so there is still a chance of fever. 


   -Today our sweet Champ will be getting a bone marrow transplant done. This is his fourth battle with leukemia. Hayden is a true champion that has never gave in to all the sickness, pain, hospital stays, medications and treatment after treatment that just did not seem to be the answer. His father Wesley right by his side armed with the Champs words I will never give up the fight. God’s word you are never alone my son for I am with you always. Wesley I am so proud you are my Champs father and that you are a godly man. Hayden My heart is full of love from having the honor of being your Memaw and knowing such a wonderful young man as you. You have made me a better person and I love you. A true Champ 

-And just like that…it was all over! Now we just sit and wait.

-Hayden’s Journey
1/16/2019… it was BMT DAY!!
As I sat in the family waiting area eating lunch with some of the fam, I watched someone get off the elevator and saw they were carrying an ice chest. We all knew it was Hayden’s Donors marrow. In that moment I had a rush of so many feelings. I wondered who it came from ect. I thanked God for sending him a match!! I wish I could personally meet this donor and thank them for donating life! I pray that this will be the end of the battle with cancer forever. Hayden, your will to fight amazes me! You have never given up and you truly have made an impact on so many people’s life including mine. Hayden, you are SO loved by your friends and family.

     Keep him in your thoughts and prayers! The next several days will be challenging. We love you bud.

    Day +2 after transplant: The Champ is still stylin’ and profilin’! He is beginning to experience some discomfort eating certain foods which tells us mucositis is setting in. This is one of the side effects that is most common with transplant and was expected. The new marrow should start taking over in his body in about a week and more side effects are expected. Until then, The Champ will continue to train, take his vitamins and saying his prayers! Leukemia! Whatcha gonna do when Hayden-mania runs wild on you  


   -Feeding my soul while he’s feeding his brain. Create a habit of study. Always learn new things or dig deeper into old things. 

    -No matter how bad he feels…she can walk in the room and he lights up!!!   (With Kylie Helms)


    -The effects of the radiation and chemo are starting and the mouth sores and mucositis are developing making eating and swallowing uncomfortable. But that did not stop The Champ from eating this steak that someone brought him. He said to get his pain meds ready because he was not going to stop eating

    -Day +4: This is when it starts getting real to us 

I spoke to Bryan this morning before writing this article.  This is what he told me about the Champ’s condition:

    “He’s starting to feel the effects of the chemo and radiation. Mouth sores have been bothering him the last couple of days and that’s expected to get worse. His hair started falling out yesterday. Towards the end of this week or the beginning of the next week the new bone marrow should start taking over he will more than likely get really sick.”


So, the Champ begins another round with this disease.  This little boy has faced more hardship and sickness than most of us will in our whole life.  As you read this article, say a little prayer for the Champ.  The Champ is now 12 years old and will be 13 in April of this year.  I have all the faith that the Champ will defeat the Leukemia again.

Hayden with Bullet Bob Armstrong

 Bobby Inman is retired from Law Enforcement after 21 years of Service.  He is a Consultant for Southern Heritage Gun & Pawn in Tuscumbia.   He has articles published in Law & Order Magazine, Police Marksman Magazine, Guns& Weapons for Law Enforcement Magazine as well as several published ebooks on Amazon, Kobo Writing, as well as Nook (Barnes & Noble).  He is owner of Poopiedog, an Animal Rescue Dachsh

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