Years of the back and forth of ideas and counseling, he began to have headaches at the age of 7. For a year he had headaches and migraines. For three months he had unbearable migraines. He would be sick to his stomach, sleeping more through the day. His doctors assured me it was stress, it was age, it was his diagnosis of Aspergers. He would have a headache no matter the amount of water I had him drink, no matter the precise food intake and protein that I had accustomed him to, nothing seemed to ease the pain.
I started missing work, leaving early to pick him up from the floors in the school bathrooms. Teachers were at a loss, as was I. Then on the 21st of August he came to work with me. I was a preschool teacher with KinderCare. He had a headache, as I had grown used to happening every day at random times. He was delirious in pain, as we knew would happen. Writhing and screaming on the floor. The doctors had sent us home with medication to ease his pains and calm his stomach. He had used three out of the three in a row of his medicines that were meant to stop the horrors of his migraines. His being sick, I told my boss that I would take him home and clean him up, then I would be back later to finish my shift. On our way to the car, Fletcher needed to sit down, he was restless and adamant to rest for a minute. I let him sit in the grass in the parking lot, he laid in the grass. I called the hospital and told them I would bring him in after I cleaned him up. Something else needed to be done to help him. When I got off the phone, he was passed out. He had fainted from the pain and sudden loss of energy. I picked him up and got water, he came to and was confused of who I was. I immediately drove him to the ER.
Upon arrival, I found the ER doctor giving me the same answers as Fletcher’s medical doctors. Once I explained the entirety of what he has been through, how I needed more than just assuming it was migraines. Then the ER doctor decided to order a CT scan. That doctor, in that very moment, had saved Fletcher’s life. The CT Scan took only a few minutes. Fletcher understood he was going to be in the donut and to stay very still for the headaches to be discovered. The doctor came to the room and asked me to step out. The words were hushed and very direct “I looked at the CT Scan and there is a mass, something that shouldn’t be there. I have transportation being set up as we speak.” This was something no parent would ever really expect to hear. He was just having breakfast this morning, his favorite orange cream Greek yogurt. Something in me snapped. Not in the sense most would expect. My reply “Alright, what do I need to do? Where is the transportation to take him?” The Doctor asked, “do you understand what I have just told you?” -“yes, I understand. Somethings there that shouldn’t be. What do I need to do?” He was a little taken aback. I was calm and ready. He told me I needed to wait for transportation that would be taking us to Children’s National, as they have experts in the field of most things brain related.
I walked into the room to my son fiddling with the remote control for their two channel tv and his sister next to him. I told him “Fletcher, we’re going on an adventure. There are doctors that can see what’s made your headaches so bad, and they can fix it and make it go away.” He smiled a small boyish smirk and told me that he likes adventures.
Within an hours time, we went from an ambulance to a full fitted ambulance, tv in the ceiling and everything; to being life flighted to DC. With my best friend bringing my daughter via my car, Fletcher and I started to the helicopter. He was calm and thanked the nurses and doctors as we left. He asked questions in the helicopter and was mostly quiet in flight, only giving thumbs up and smiling up over his head because of his positioning, he knew I was there. Getting to Children’s National, we went straight to the PICU. It was explained to me that there was what seemed to be a tumor, a large one. After hours of tests and studying him and his history, the MRI came back. He had a tumor the size of a large plum. In an earlier conversation with Fletcher, he asked what was making his headaches, I told him a potato. It became an inside joke between he and I. He had a potato and the doctors there could get it out for him. Fletcher kindly called it a stupid potato, because it clearly didn’t belong in his brain. Surgery came on the 25th and the very first thing that he spoke post surgery was “major hurt.”
Through the pain, through the terror and all of the commotion, he had survived brain surgery. The synopsis of the tumor was malignant. He had Medulloblastoma. In further studying he has Medulloblastoma with MYCN. He can redevelop tumors. With the findings, he has gone through brain and spine radiation. His treatments of chemo are going to be intense as well. All he has to say is “stupid potato was smart to grow in my brain.” He knows Radiation was looking for ‘spud buddies’ and chemo is supposed to make sure the same potato never comes back.Every child who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer inspires us to Rally On to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures. Please join us in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation or setting up your own Rally fundraiser today.