Deon Rush has one piece of advice for parents: if children have headaches and act lethargic, take them to the doctor immediately.
“Do not, do not ignore them,” she said. “Take them immediately to the doctor. It might be your worst nightmare, but it could save your kid’s life someday.”
Her advice comes eight months after her 4-year-old son Landen started having headaches and throwing up. On Nov. 29, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer.
Landen immediately went into surgery and had a golf ball-sized tumor removed from his head. Even though the tumor was removed entirely, the cancer returned six weeks later.
The type of brain cancer he has, anaplastic medulloblastoma, grows extremely quickly and is predominately found in boys ages 2-9.
After the surgery and six weeks of chemotherapy, the cancer came back in his spine and three other places. Landen then went through harsh chemo for 12 weeks at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“He’s done really well with his treatments and he’s a trooper,” Deon said. “He lives his life and he wants to know when his hair is coming back. He doesn’t understand the full extent of it.”
Since starting chemotherapy, Landen went from 50 to 35 pounds and still struggles to keep food down.
He and his mom found out two weeks ago that he relapsed again and the hospital gave him a 10-20 percent chance of survival.
“I told them that’s not going to happen,” Deon said about the survival chance. “I got on the internet and did some research and found St. Jude’s (Children’s Research Hospital).”
The family applied and got accepted to the cancer research center, whose mission is to make sure every child gets treatment, no matter the family’s ability to pay.
“I have positive vibes about St. Jude’s,” Deon said. “Let’s put him back at 70-80 percent chance and get him cured.”
In two weeks, the family will travel down to St. Jude headquarters in Tennessee and participate in one of two studies for brain cancer. They’ll live there for one or two months, and return for follow-ups every two months.
St. Jude’s is providing housing, but Deon still has to pay for food, gas, rent and utilities for her Arnold home.
“I can’t tell you how good of a school they are and how wonderful of people they are and always help him with his medicine,” Deon said. “There are no words; they’re like family to us.”
The school arranged to pay for Landen’s education and have visited him in the hospital.
“It’s turned our lives upside-down. I haven’t been able to work and it’s been so hard on our family and friends,” Deon said. “The school and community has just been such a help.”