Chicago Cubs: Pediatric Cancer Patient Drafted | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Loyola Medicine Pediatric Cancer Patient Drafted by Chicago Cubs

Pediatric cancer patient Pierson Gibis with nurse

MAYWOOD, IL – As a baseball catcher, Pierson Gibis was used to aches and pains. However, one afternoon in the fall of 2016, 16-year-old Pierson struggled to throw a baseball and knew something was wrong.

"I started to get this different, shooting pain in my back," said Pierson, of Wauconda, Illinois. "I kept playing through it until it got to the point where I said, 'I have to go to the hospital.'"
 
Doctors at his local emergency room performed an MRI that showed Pierson had lesions on his spine. He was transferred to Loyola Medicine by ambulance that day where doctors told Pierson and his family that he had a rare form of cancer.

"It was the end of life as we knew it," said Jan Gibis, Pierson's mother. 

Pierson underwent months of treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that develops between the connective tissues and is diagnosed in just 400-500 people each year. In Pierson's case, the cancer had spread throughout his body.

"He's a warrior, for sure," said pediatric oncologist Eugene Suh, MD. He faced each new hurdle and was a role model, not just for the other patients but for the physicians, Dr. Suh said.

During treatment, which included radiation and chemotherapy, baseball continued to help Pierson cope. From his Cubs-themed room on the inpatient floor of Loyola's pediatric unit, he cheered on the Cubs during their 2016 playoff run. He was able to make it home from a blood transfusion to see Game 7 as the Cubs captured their first World Series title in 108 years.

"It was unbelievable," Pierson said. "I could go on about it forever."

When Pierson finished treatment, he returned to the baseball field and participated in a spring league in Wisconsin, where scouts were able to watch him play.

He was working out near home when two teammates came up to him to tell him he had been drafted by the Cubs. "I said 'Good one, that's funny,'" said Pierson, now 19. "Then they showed me their phones and my name. It was unbelievable."

One of the first people Pierson reached out to with the news was Dr. Suh. "He sent me a screenshot and I replied back 'I'm so proud of you. You can do anything,'" Dr. Suh said.

Pierson will play baseball in the fall at Madison College in Madison, Wisconsin, as he hopes to improve his conditioning and future prospects for playing in the majors. The Cubs have told him they will keep an eye on him.

"I don't want this disease to define me," Pierson said. "Guys like Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester, they had cancer but no one talks about them like that. They talk about them as All-Stars on the Cubs. I want to make a name for myself like that."

Loyola’s pediatric oncology team is specially trained in the treatment of children and provides care in a compassionate, family-friendly environment. Cancer types that develop in children are often different from the cancer types that develop in adults, and therefore require different treatment plans and approaches to patient care. An interdisciplinary team of doctors at Loyola's children’s hospital and the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center has specialized training and experience caring for children with cancer and blood disorders

About Loyola Medicine

Loyola Medicine is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) in Melrose Park, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,772 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. The medical center campus is also home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. GMH is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments in a convenient community setting. Loyola Medicine is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems with 94 hospitals in 22 states.

About Trinity Health

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 93 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.