September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
Travis is now 15, almost 16. He wrote this essay for his English class last year.
My name is Travis, I'm 14 years old, and August 12, 2010 is the day that changed my life forever and I will never forget it.
A few days earlier I was putting my bike away that was on our porch when I decided to ride my bike off the porch. I didn't land it, I fell, hard. I got up after a little bit and went inside. I told my mom what happened and she checked me for injuries. She saw my pupils were dilated and she thought I had a concussion. We went to the hospital and I got checked out. I also got a CT scan, pretty much an x-ray of the brain. That's where we ran into trouble. They saw something that shouldn't have been there but they weren't sure what it was. They sent us home anyway and they told us to go to a bunch of other doctors. After a week or so we got a call. One of the doctors told my mom I had a brain tumor and to get me to the hospital ASAP.
We went to the hospital again and had to see a neurologist to set up another scan. The scan was done and the results were reviewed for a few days by the chief of neuro-surgery. That's when he told us there was nothing he could do, not what you want to hear from literally the best pediatric neuro-surgeon in the world. It was time to see more doctors and see what we could find out. I saw a neuro-ophthalmologist, a neuro-oncologist, and a neurologist, all in the same day. The next day I had my first brain surgery. The surgeon took out a piece of the tumor for biopsy - he couldn't take the whole thing out for lots of reasons but I won't get into that. He also placed a shunt in me; a shunt is a device that manually drains fluid out of the head. I needed that because the tumor is blocking one of my ventricles where fluid drains. If the fluid doesn't drain, a lot of pressure builds up and that is very dangerous.
A few days passed and it was the same - more appointments, bloodwork, and scans. October 5th, things started to look up - all the results were in and they showed my tumor was stable or not growing. A few months passed, and we got used to our new routine with scans every three months and frequent doctor appointments. It started to become more comfortable, normal even, as messed up as that is. We did this for two years. This was our life now, we made a lot of new friends became very close with all our doctors. It was actually really nice. I started to forget why we were even at the hospital most of the time. Whenever you have your head in the clouds something happens that brings you back to harsh reality; that is exactly what happened to me. Almost two years after my diagnosis, we got news that completely turned our world upside down.
I got another routine scan and wasn't expecting anything but good news, but that's where I went wrong. My doctor told me the tumor showed signs of growth; it was only a little bit but that is enough to need to treat it because a little bit is a lot in the brain. She also told me my shunt was malfunctioning, and I needed surgery to revise it. I had the surgery, and all went well. They fixed the problem with my shunt, and I stayed in the hospital for about a week and a half. The day I was discharged, also the day before my eleventh birthday, I started chemotherapy. I would take the chemo in pill form one week then I got it through an IV the next week, and it kept alternating like that. The drugs were really hard on me. I threw up a lot, I was always tired, my hair started to thin, I was a mess. I got so sick I could barely eat at all; I lost thirty pounds in three months. I lost so much weight, and I couldn't eat so I got an NG tube. It goes through your nose, down your throat and stops in your stomach. I was getting Pediasure almost non-stop, 24 hours a day, but I couldn't handle it. SO they reduced it to overnight feeds only, and we stuck with that until about 4 months later when I could eat on my own.
About two years after I started treatment, my tumor had been stable long enough that I could stop treatment. I have learned so much since I've been diagnosed but mostly I learned that I am very very lucky. I have met so many good friends who will be with me forever. Some of my friends have died, good friends who became family. Saying goodbye is some of the hardest things I've ever done. It's changed me in ways I don't even know, in ways that can never be reversed. All I can do is let it also change me for the better. Because of my friends, I know what I want to do with my life. It has given me the chance to see the big problems that are right under our noses, yet hardly anybody sees it. This has changed me in many ways, but I refuse to let it change me for the worse. Instead, I use it to open my eyes and see what I need to do, and I will never give that up. This has drastically changed my life, but I believe there is a reason, there has to be. My journey has allowed me to find my dream of becoming a doctor for all sick children and for that I am lucky.
Living with a brain tumor has been extremely hard, no doubt, but I wouldn't change what happened even if I could. It has made me who I am, and I am proud of that. Believe it or not, I'm grateful this happened because it gave me the most precious gift you can get - a purpose in life.
Mom's note: In 2014, Travis was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD. He has worked hard with a therapist who specializes in kids with life threatening illnesses and is doing very well now. He knows this tumor can kill him, but he's sure it won't. He has attended more funerals for his friends in the past few years than I have in a lifetime. He has never shied away from visiting kids that are dying. Instead, he embraces them in the warmth and gentleness of his heart. His mission, since he was 8 years old is to become a pediatric neuro-oncologist and researcher and stop brain tumors from killing kids. He makes a difference for other kids every day, and will keep on for the rest of his life. He is my hero in every sense of the word!