“He kept saying his little sister’s voice was making his head hurt,” said Max’s father, Brad. Though they suspected nothing more than sibling strife, his parents took Max to the doctor for his headaches twice.
All his bloodwork came back fine, but his complaints continued. Shortly after, in April 2017, he experienced a sudden loss of motor control and couldn’t walk. Max was then rushed to the local hospital.
When scans showed a tumor in Max’s brain, his parents never for a moment thought it would be anything but benign. Surgeons were able to remove the entire golf ball-sized mass during the operation. Relieved, the family celebrated a successful surgery until the oncologist walked in.
The celebrating stopped. Max had a type of brain cancer called anaplastic ependymoma.
Cancer is one of those words that you just don’t say. When it’s your kid, it’s hard to swallow.
He was referred to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“He got 33 rounds of proton therapy, which is available in just a few places, and this is the only place in the world that’s tailored for children,” said Brad. Max also received chemotherapy.
Max’s parents shielded him from his diagnosis as much as possible. They didn’t use the word “cancer” with him. Five-year-old Max just knew he was at St. Jude for medicine to stop his headaches.
At St. Jude, they seem to worry as much about the kids’ mental health as they do their physical. He’s never felt like he was in a hospital anytime he was here, and we didn’t either.
Now Max’s headaches are gone. “As of this moment, he is cancer free,” said Brad.
When Max’s parents came to St. Jude for treatment, they were suddenly in a position to see firsthand what they’d been helping to support.
They were monthly donors — St. Jude Partners In Hope® — before his diagnosis, having signed up after hearing St. Jude stories on the radio.
“I remember pulling in to a parking lot and calling in,” said his mom, Abby. “It was easy.”
At that point in time, Brad and Abby believed they were helping other people, people they would never meet. Now their own son is a St. Jude patient, and they know some of the families they read about in their Partners In Hope statements.
I have a hope that more people become a Partner In Hope, because they’re going to help Max’s buddies get better. The more people that give St. Jude money, the more research they can do, the more families they can help.
Help our families focus on their sick child, not medical bills.
When you donate monthly, your gift means families, like Max's, never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.