The weeks that followed were filled with bouts of fear and panic; strong-willed efforts to maintain some calm in our lives; helping Teyton and our younger son, Hobie, through this precarious new reality; accepting care and support from friends and family; and figuring out the next steps to fight this disease that had turned our lives upside down and inside out.
The biopsy revealed that the mass was a mixed-germ cell tumor made up of both benign cells and malignant cancer cells. Teyton began chemotherapy treatments at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and although the malignant cells responded to treatment, the benign cells continued to grow. After only two cycles of chemo, Teyton needed surgery to remove the tumor from the center of his brain. Thankfully, the entire tumor was removed. But the ventricles did not re-open, so Teyton was continuing to suffer all the effects of hydrocephalus (swelling from fluid build-up): pain, irritability, and disorientation. The next seven days in the pediatric intensive care unit was the darkest time for us.
After several more scans and procedures, a second surgery was performed to insert a shunt into Teyton’s head to drain the fluid. Teyton quickly turned a corner and even defied the ICU physicians by going home early.
We didn’t have time to rejoice in his recovery, however. It was imperative to treat the cancer aggressively, so Teyton resumed chemo immediately. After four more cycles, Teyton “graduated” to proton therapy.
We tried to make it like going to camp since it took 30 days of his summer vacation. We played games, brought friends along, and took small field trips in Philadelphia.
Throughout his ordeal, Teyton was incredibly kind and caring toward his nurses and doctors; complimenting them on how well they did a procedure, thanking them for taking care of him, and asking them how they were doing. When he saw a young child in the waiting room at the oncology clinic he would smile at them and say, “Hey, buddy,” so they would relax and not be worried about what was happening to them.