On the Friday our son Dominic turned 9 weeks old, he started throwing up immediately after eating. This continued on and off through out the weekend, so we took him to the pediatrician first-thing Monday. During that appointment, the doctor noticed that his head circumference seemed to be not following the normal growth curve. He sent us to a nearby hospital right away.
There they did an ultrasound and MRI, which revealed that Dominic had a brain tumor. On July 23, 2014, he underwent a seven hour tumor resection. The tumor was quite large, about 40 percent of his brain space. One week later, we learned the tumor was a rare, cancerous tumor, called a Choroid Plexus Carcinoma. We knew the road ahead of us would be a long one. Unfortunately, we just didn’t feel like the hospital we were at was a good fit for us, so we transferred Dominic’s care to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Last year as my daughter, Kailyn, was starting eighth grade, she decided she wanted to play volleyball. She needed a physical to try out, so I took her to a local urgent care center for a basic sport physical. Because she had been diagnosed with a heart murmur when she was much younger, the doctor at the urgent care center would not give her permission to play and referred us to our pediatrician.
Luckily, her pediatrician was able to see her on a Saturday so she could get that sport physical done in time for tryouts. The appointment turned serious when the doctor started pushing on Kailyn’s stomach. She felt something hard and thought it might be her bowels. He told me to give her Metamucil and follow up on Monday for an ultrasound. On Monday, Kailyn called me from school to say that her stomach hurt. I took her straight to the ER.
When our youngest daughter, Amelie, was 22 months in the fall of 2012, we noticed that she started to have balance problems. She went from zooming around the house to being less steady, and then one Sunday, she stood up and simply fell over. That set off warning bells for me and my wife, Shelley.
We scheduled an appointment with our pediatrician for that Wednesday. From there, our pediatrician sent us to the ER at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Thursday morning she had an MRI where they discovered a brain tumor. Amelie was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a kind of fast-growing tumor. On Friday, she had a 13-hour surgery to have as much of the tumor removed as possible. The team at Mott took tissue samples from the tumor to study them further.
I just started my senior year at Marlette High School, but my teen years have been a pretty different experience than most other girls my age. When I was in eighth grade, I had pain in my hip for a few months. I went to a chiropractor who thought it was arthritis. When the pain did not go away, I had X-rays that showed a grapefruit-sized mass attached to my hip. I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that is most often found in bones or nearby tissue.
I was referred to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for care. Because the tumor was in my hip, my first experiences at Mott were with the oncology clinic and Dr. Biermann, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in orthopedic oncology. With Dr. Biermann, I underwent surgery to remove the tumor and my ilium (the large bone in your pelvis) on November 30th. I also had 13 rounds of chemo stretching from August through April. The chemo was not fun! I lost my hair and felt sick. I missed volleyball season that year.
When I played on the U-M softball team, I got involved in a program for student-athletes called Michigan From the Heart. In that program, U-M student-athletes met at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital every Thursday evening to visit patients and their families. It’s a big deal for the U-M sports teams, and we often rushed from practice on Thursdays so we could go.
We’d divide up so each group of student-athletes included a good mixture of athletes from different sports, and then we’d spread out around the hospital. It was an amazing experience and really opened my eyes to the struggles and the courage of these children and their families. My father died of cancer at the start of my junior year of college, after being in remission for 5 years, so cancer has also made a mark on my personal life.
After graduation, I was drafted to the USSSA Pride National Pro Fastpitch softball team. I wanted to continue to help Mott and raise funds, so I combined my love of softball with my passion for Mott and created FIGHT. We held our first “So You Think You Can Hit” event in 2012. I’m a fastpitch softball pitcher and over the years, I’ve heard many of my male friends brag how they could hit one of my pitches. I had them step up to the plate, make a donation and give it a shot.
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