NY Boy With Rare Cancer Caught in Court Battle Over Custody
What to Know
A Long Island mom is fighting to regain custody of her 13-year-old son, who's in remission from a rare and deadly cancer
The county stepped in when she wanted to stop chemotherapy and focus on a non-toxic alternative therapy for the boy
Doctors say the boy needs two to three more years of chemo; the mom says her rights as a parent are being trampled
A 13-year-old Long Island boy battling a rare and deadly form of leukemia is desperately pleading to be released from the hospital as his mother wages a court fight to regain control of her son's medical treatments.
Candace Gundersen lost custody of her son Nicholas Gunderen last month, when Nicholas' cancer went into remission and she decided not to continue chemotherapy treatments that doctors believe are needed.
"The chemotherapy literally just destroys the body, and I don't agree with that," Gundersen told reporters Friday before going to court to try to convince a judge to win back custody of her son. The mom wants to focus instead on a non-toxic alternative therapy for the boy.
That belief has cost her control of her son's care, and officials at Suffolks Child Protective Services stepped in.
"They have literally taken away my ability to protect him and look after him in the very best way I know how," said Gundersen, adding that she doesn't believe that officials are genuinely interested in the best interests of her child.
Doctors at NYU Winthrop Hospital, where Nicholas has been kept for the last week with a special GPS bracelet to track his movements, insist chemo will be needed for another two to three years.
"Unless chemotherapy is continued, those [cancer] cells can once again multiply and the results are usually fatal," said hospital spokesman J. Edmond Keating.
But Gundersen's attorney Elliot Schlissel argued, "A parent's desire to provide a child with which she feels is the most appropriate level of treatment should be given the first consideration."
Nicholas himself said in a video from his hospital room, "I don't have cancer. So there's no need for chemotherapy."
Getting emotional, he added in tears, "I really need to get out of here because it's causing me a lot of stress."
In encouraging news for the boy Friday evening, a judge released him from the hospital into the temporary custody of a family friend. His mother can live with Nicholas but cannot make any decisions on his medical treatments until the case is decided, probably sometime in December.