Last June, Tien and his wife Alice were worried about their oldest child and only son, Tammy. During a family outing to pick cherries, Tammy complained that his head hurt and he was hot to the touch. “We thought it was heatstroke,” Tien said.
But days turned into weeks and Tammy wasn’t feeling any better. He was in and out of the doctor’s office, but nothing seemed to help. Finally, at the end of June, a CT scan revealed Tammy had a mass on his brain, identified as a type of brain tumor called an anaplastic ependymoma. The news was devastating. “I begged God for more time with Tammy,” Tien said.
Tammy underwent surgery at a local hospital immediately, during which the entire tumor was resected. Doctors in California recommended Tammy undergo proton therapy, so the family was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for Tammy’s continuing treatment.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to more than 90%, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
“As soon as we arrived at St. Jude, everyone was so welcoming,” Tien said. “The care is amazing. From the shuttle drivers to the doctors to the staff, we’ve just been taken care of so well.”
At St. Jude, Tammy’s treatment included 33 rounds of proton therapy and four rounds of chemotherapy. His Child Life specialists realized early in his treatment that Tammy had the potential to undergo his proton radiation treatments without sedation, and they worked with him to make this a reality.
St. Jude patient Tammy with his sister and cousins
“Our time at St. Jude was tumultuous, like a storm,” Tien said. “But beautiful, too, to see Tammy bounce back after surgery. It brought a big perspective change in my life. Every day that we get is a blessing, and this is all more than I prayed for. Receiving all these blessings, the treatment at St. Jude and everything they offer us — my wife and I finally got the relief we were looking for.”
Tammy is finished with treatment and visits St. Jude for regular checkups. He loves playing with his two younger sisters, going to the park and making crafts.
St. Jude gave me hope for Tammy, more days with Tammy. They gave us hope for his future.