Our names are Rick and Melanie and our eight-year-old son Brody has brain cancer.
Watching our child deteriorate in front of our eyes has been incredibly difficult and something we hope you will never have to experience personally. We want to share his challenging story with you in the hope it will inspire you to support the important research happening at CancerCare Manitoba.
Brody’s loss of coordination was an early sign.
Brody’s cancer journey began fifteen months ago in February 2017. Even after more than a year, we feel like everything we’re going through as a family is a dream. This reality – our reality – of childhood cancer still hasn’t really clicked in yet.
Brody’s challenges began in kindergarten.
He started experiencing balance issues and he was vomiting. We thought maybe he had an allergy or was experiencing anxiety. His symptoms persisted and worsened until his energy level was so low he could no longer skate, an activity he loved doing with all of us. Looking back, he was in very rough shape.
You are our hero.
In the time since Brody’s diagnosis of Grade-II Ependymoma, we have learned first-hand how research and clinical trials are informing and guiding his cancer treatment. People tell us Brody is courageous and a hero but to us, the real heroes are you – the individuals and organizations who support CancerCare. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your past support. Your generous, big-hearted giving has enabled research which has played a key role in the treatment of our son’s rare form of brain cancer.
What we hoped would be an uneventful visit to a pediatrician last winter to assess Brody’s symptoms went completely sideways. The test results came back very quickly – he had a brain tumour. When Rick phoned me with the news, I thought he was joking. “But really, who would joke about that. My heart skipped a beat.”
As a parent the feeling you have hearing this unimaginable news is beyond description. We all have relatives or someone we know dealing with cancer but now our child is one of those people. It’s absolutely one of the worst things you can ever hear.
Can you imagine doctors telling you your young child needed urgent brain surgery to survive?
The pressure on Brody’s brain was affecting his balance and needed to be relieved immediately. A tube was inserted to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure. Just two days later, Brody underwent a 14-hour surgery, one of the hardest the pediatric neurosurgeon said he’d done. Eighty per cent of the tumour was removed but they couldn’t get it all. The remainder was in too sensitive an area to proceed further.
The doctors were worried he would have long-term side effects.
Brody was so tough though. He needed incredible courage and determination to relearn everything, including eating, talking and walking. Unfortunately, Brody’s amazing strength was simply not able to overcome all the obstacles and our son suffered some permanent mild loss of vision in one of his eyes. We were just grateful to still have him with us.
After only two weeks, Brody was able to come home and begin his treatment managed by CancerCare Manitoba. His treatment was extensive and a lot of hard work for such a young child. It included multiple cycles of chemotherapy, over 30 radiation treatments, blood transfusions, numerous MRIs and daily medicine injections at home.
Brody finished all his treatment last October and we continued on with our lives. It was really hard not visiting the pediatric clinic at CancerCare so often. We met so many people during those eight months and there are so many children still there fighting their cancer. It was difficult to leave them behind.
Just when we thought Brody was on the path to recovery…
Part of Brody’s ongoing care was to return to CancerCare for regular brain scans. We were rocked by the results of his last scan in January which showed there was new tumour growth. In just a few short months since finishing treatment, Brody’s cancer had relapsed. His next surgery was scheduled for the end of March. This surgery was critical to remove as much of the tumour as possible before it spread. In the weeks between the news and the surgery, we were very afraid for our son’s life. They couldn’t get the entire tumour the first time around because it was in a sensitive area. And now they had to go back in a second time, again to this sensitive area.
With the first surgery, we didn’t have any time to process what was going to happen and we didn’t have any knowledge of how Brody would be cared for. The second time it was different. We knew he was in excellent hands. Without question your generous donations have helped recruit world-class pediatric oncologists to Manitoba. These people care for our son just as if he was one of their own children. We put our faith and trust in them.
Research is key.
Brody was enrolled in a pediatric clinical trial. We know this trial and others like it are available for Manitobans with cancer because of you. Without donations there wouldn’t be as much success, faith and hope for a family like ours. By becoming a monthly donor – a Champion of Discovery – your very generous gifts will support research, including clinical trials like the one Brody was enrolled in.
People tell us we are so strong and they can’t imagine making it through this experience. We have no choice. This is our path; we don’t want to be on it but we have to do it for Brody.
And Brody is not alone. He has a sister who adores him. They fight like siblings do, but as soon as they are apart, they ask for each other. Every night since his diagnosis when he is home, they sleep together. Our tightknit community has embraced Brody. He’s really become everybody’s kid in St-Pierre-Jolys, St. Malo and the surrounding area. This support has helped us cope the best we can during the hardest time in our lives. And he also has you in his corner.
The future is uncertain.
As we write to you Brody is recovering at home from his second brain surgery. All signs signal his recovery is going well, but we have been down this road before and are taking things one day at a time.
When people ask what they can do, we reflect on all the other patients we’ve met who remain in treatment at CancerCare. Your donations can help so much. We hope you will please give the most generous gift you can. We simply cannot express the impact of your past kindness and the difference your continued support will make. Families like ours depend on donor-funded research to discover new treatments for their loved ones.
Rick & Mel