by Janice Arnold, Cam's mom
Cameron was born July 8, 2004. Up until the age of 3½, he was a perfectly healthy baby.
Then in November of 2007, he had a check-up with his doctor, who sent us to Akron Children’s Hospital for Cameron to have a CT scan of his brain. After what seemed like hours, his doctor called me on the hospital phone to tell me that my baby had a very large mass in his brain.
“A brain tumor?” I asked her.
She said yes, and that she was having him admitted to have surgery in two days.
That was Nov. 15. I was devastated by this news. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach, and I just sat and cried. I called Cam’s dad, Brian, at work to tell him what was wrong.
Two days after the diagnosis, Cam went in for what would amount to two surgeries. Dr. Bartkowski, his neurosurgeon, met with me to show me the scans. I was sickened when I saw the tumor. It was the size of a softball on the right side of his brain. Wow.
The first surgery was done. Since the tumor was so large, a second “de-bulking” surgery would have to be done in two months. Cam’s next surgery was in January of 2008. We met with his oncologist to discuss treatment options, and Cam started his first round of chemotherapy.
About halfway through the chemo, another scan revealed the tumor came back. Wow. Again.
Cam had to undergo yet another surgery in February 2008 because the ventriculoperitoneal shunt that was inserted into his head in January to drain the fluid around his brain had become plugged, since it wasn’t wide enough. We were devastated again because the shunt caused Cam to be unresponsive, and we thought he was a “goner” then. Thank God, he wasn’t.
After all of this, Cam’s tumor came back again after doing even more chemo. So in June of 2008, he went in again. He was fine after that and was able to celebrate his 4th birthday.
Cam had to have radiation treatments after his tumor recurred in 2009. He did six weeks of that, which slowed the growth of the tumor a lot. So, in the fall of 2009, Cameron was able to go to kindergarten. Yay! He loved school. But before any of that happened, he had a fourth surgery.
After starting school, he seemed to be progressing just fine. He had medi-port removal surgery in January 2010. A week later he had another MRI.
The results showed some changes in what remained of the tumor. Nothing to be worried about, I was told. Cam seemed okay. But he would get sick and vomit. We didn’t really think it was tumor-related. His doctor didn’t seem concerned, so we went on with life.
Then in April of 2010, Cam was getting sick more often and not eating like he should’ve been. He had a CT scan and we waited for the results. We got the devastating news that the tumor had grown yet again.
Surgery was done on April 15, 2010, which was also Cam’s sister Christine’s Sweet 16 birthday. After surgery was done, we met with the neurosurgeon who told us that everything went ok, but he wasn’t sure what exactly we were dealing with this time. Another MRI was done the next day to check everything. Again we waited.
Soon, his oncologist came into the room to tell us that our little boy’s cancer was terminal and that she didn’t know how much time he had left. It was gut-wrenching for everyone. I immediately told her that I didn’t want Cam to go through any more treatments, even if there had been something she could’ve done for him. I wanted what time he had left to be quiet. I think deep down I knew it wouldn’t be long before Cam died. And it wasn’t.
Brian and I prayed together that Cam wouldn’t be sick and suffer and that he would just go quickly. This was when we were first introduced to the palliative care team, which was available to us for support 24/7. They helped us to make a plan of care and goals for how we wanted Cam’s last days to be. They also helped us find a hospice program to help us take care of him at home.
We brought Cam home after six days in the hospital, with hospice coming into our home to help. On the eighth day of being at home, he went into a seizure and had a stroke.
A nurse came from hospice to assess him, and I got on the phone with Dr. Kelly-Langen, one of the palliative care physicians at Akron Children’s Hospital. She told us to bring him to the emergency room. We drove almost an hour to get him there. Cam lived for five more days basically in a coma.
The Akron Children’s palliative care team took very good care of him. They kept him comfortable during those grueling five days. The morning of the fifth day, Cam peacefully drifted out of our lives. Our prayers had been answered. Akron Children’s Hospital still remains a big part of our lives even a year later.
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