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The playground has brightly painted play sets and slides. It’s surrounded by a lush green lawn, and parked close by are big wheels and bikes. On this particular day, the sun shines brightly. Summer is in full swing.
Five-year-old Aaron grasps his dad’s hand and the two walk toward the playground. Aaron is a little unsteady, but he's determined. His dad, Scott, lets go of Aaron’s hand and watches his son climb onto the play set. When Aaron reaches the top, he laughs, the sound crisp and clear.
Almost a year ago, Scott worried that he’d never see his son laugh and play outside again. For several weeks during the summer of 2012, Aaron experienced nausea and vomiting. In August, an MRI revealed a mass on Aaron’s brain.
Scott, a lieutenant commander 04 in the US Navy, was stationed on the USS Enterprise in the middle of the Persian Gulf when he learned the news. His wife, Elizabeth, sent him a frantic email asking him to “call immediately.” Scott had been deployed for six months. The family was used to being apart for long stretches of time, but now the distance seemed overwhelming.
The next two days were a flurry of activity as Scott made his way back to his family. By the time he arrived stateside, Aaron had already undergone emergency surgery to remove the tumor.
The scene that met Scott in Aaron’s hospital room was devastating.
"Aaron was hooked up to tubes, and his face was swollen,” Scott recalls. It was a vast difference from the playful, energetic little boy Scott had said goodbye to when he left the States. “He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t talk."
But the moment Scott said Aaron’s name, the little boy opened his eyes.
A biopsy of the tumor revealed it to be a medulloblastoma, a rare brain tumor that arises in the posterior fossa region of the brain. Elizabeth searched the Internet for the best place for Aaron’s continuing treatment and care.
Everything she found pointed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has the largest research-based pediatric brain tumor research program in the country. Its science and technology are at the cutting edge worldwide.
Aaron and his family arrived at St. Jude in September 2012. His treatment included a second brain surgery, 31 rounds of radiation therapy and four rounds of chemotherapy. Scott was temporarily reassigned to a military base in Tennessee, and was able to stay with Aaron during the entirety of his treatment. “I feel blessed that I could be here with him,” says Scott. "Aaron is definitely my hero."
Scott and Elizabeth are grateful for everything St. Jude has done for their son. “Our doctors and nurses are amazing. There is so much love and care," Scott says. "You can’t put the amount of thanks we have for St. Jude into words. It’s the very best of the best."
Aaron recently finished treatment. He visits St. Jude for regular checkups, and his latest set of scans showed no evidence of disease. Scott looks forward to many more days spent playing with his son.