tampabay.com

DCF will take son to chemo appointments if mother won't

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published May 16, 2007


DADE CITY - Natasha Esteras says she is complying - although not voluntarily - with a court order to get chemotherapy treatment for her 10-year-old son. The state says the mother is resisting.

Last month, Circuit Judge Linda Babb ordered Esteras to take her son Daniel Gomez for chemotherapy and radiation treatments - preventive measures to keep a fast-growing cancer from returning. Daniel's test results say he is cancer-free since a tumor was removed from his testicles in February, according to his mother.

In an emergency hearing Monday, Assistant State Attorney Leslie Layne said Esteras has rescheduled and shown up late for nearly all of Daniel's appointments at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

"The child's not receiving the weekly treatments on time, " Layne said. "This is harming Daniel."

A pediatric oncologist testified that the rate of survival of rhabdomyosarcoma would be 70 to 75 percent if the chemotherapy is administered at the same time each week. And every three weeks, Daniel must stay one or two nights in the hospital for treatment.

In all, the doctor said, he needs 42 weeks of treatment. Further, the state wants Daniel to see a therapist to help with the mental effects of cancer treatments, and to have a state agency take him to his appointments if his mother can't.

Esteras, 26, sat through the hearing just as angry as ever. She has resisted the treatments for Daniel because she believes they aren't necessary - and are potentially harmful. After bringing him home from a two-day hospital stay this weekend, she is even more convinced.

"It's been 48 hours and he still hasn't eaten, " Esteras told the judge.

Babb gave a little to both sides. She sympathized with Esteras having to watch her son endure the effects of the medicine.

"Chemotherapy will sometimes do that for you, but it will also sometimes save your life, " she said.

She said the Department of Children and Families will take Daniel to his appointments - on time - if Esteras doesn't, but the mother can go, too.

Babb also said his therapy should be moved to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa when possible, to make it more convenient for the Lutz family.

After the hearing, Esteras spoke in the lobby, next to her live-in boyfriend and their 14-month-old son.

"I think these people are just trying to ruin our life, as if they haven't done enough already, " she said. "I feel they're going to kill him before they even help him."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at 352 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com.