Ask any 13-year-old’s mother, and she will tell you that life is a whirlwind. That is certainly true for Amy Wilson-King and her son Caeden, but in early March 2016 an unexpected diagnosis added a lot of uncertainty and fear as well.
“He’d been having some vague symptoms, like blurry vision and headaches, but he’d also developed intermittent vomiting and some trouble with balance,” recalls Amy, a respiratory therapist at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center. “We went to his pediatrician, and they did not like the symptoms so they set him up for a CT scan. When I got the call, it was not good news.”
Caeden had a tumor about the size of a golf ball near his brain stem. Surgery took place on March 14, with most of the tumor removed. Some had to be left in place due to its location, and Caeden’s motor skills and speech were affected, so rehab has been taking place alongside radiation and chemotherapy.
“He’s having to relearn how to walk and talk, and it stinks,” Amy says. “It’s bad enough to have brain cancer, but this intensive rehab on top of it is a lot for a kid to have to take. So many of those functions were affected by the tumor’s location — he was not talking for four or five weeks.
Because she had already taken vacation time and leave around the time of her father’s recent passing, Amy had run out of PTO when Caeden’s diagnosis arrived. The surgery, as well as subsequent out-of-town stays for further treatment and rehab that have stretched into weeks and months, left her scrambling just to cover basic bills.
“There was so much going on around the diagnosis and surgery, but several people at the hospital reminded me of the Hope Fund, and definitely said I should apply,” she says. “I was worried about my son first, but money was quickly becoming a real problem. I wasn’t going anywhere until my kid was better, and we were looking at 20 days in the hospital, two weeks of rehab and six weeks of chemo and radiation, followed by a month off, and then six more months of chemo.”
“When the assistance came it was such a huge relief. I have an older son who’s at home, and just making sure that I could make the rent and get the car note paid was a huge weight lifted. When you’re in hospitals all day every day, just eating becomes expensive. The pediatric rehab is more than three hours from home, and staying nearby isn’t free. The Hope Fund relieved a lot of that stress, and I am so grateful.”