Hello, my name is Eric Stahl and my family and I are in the midst of watching my 20-year-old daughter go through a shocking diagnosis of an aggressive Medulloblastoma, better known as a brain tumor.
Starting in February of this year, Summer was having recurring headaches that were diagnosed by the local clinic in Carbondale as migraines. When she came home to Central Illinois for the concern a few months later, the doctors again said everything looked fine but took some labs. Again, everything looked to be fine.
Memorial Day 2022 weekend, our family was going to take a few days and explore the southern tip of Illinois with Summer as a tour guide when all of our plans came crashing down. Summer could not walk and she could not stop vomiting. We rushed her to the ER at SIH and after an X-ray and an MRI, a 1.5 to 2" tumor was found in and around her cerebellum.
Doctors moved quickly to reduce swelling but they wanted her at a larger facility that could handle these medical needs ASAP. Summer was flown by Air Ambulance to CARLE hospital in Champaign Illinois.
Upon arrival at CARLE, she was prepped for potentially life-saving surgery to remove the tumor and open up the ventricles that should be moving fluid from her brain to her spine. With a brave face, she went into surgery where a portion of the tumor was removed. The surgery to open up the flow of brain fluid was a success, but Summer did spend 2 weeks in Critical Care at CARLE while she recovered.
CARLE is not equipped to take on Summer's Tumor and we were in the midst of making decisions on future treatments when I had a brilliant idea. I am a Boy Scout Leader for Pekin IL Troop 62 and one of my Scouts has cancer. I contacted his parents for some advice and direction. Todd said, "Have you called St. Jude?"
Long story short(er), St. Jude and told them about Summer's condition. They accepted her case almost immediately.
Summer had second brain surgery at LaBonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis at the end of June.
The biopsy from Summer's last surgery showed Type 3 Medulloblastoma with and without the MYC amplifier. Our doctors St. Jude have opted for an aggressive Proton Radiation treatment with Chemotherapy to give Summer the best odds of recovery.
She had eggs removed and saved because of the risk of fertility problems after Chemotherapy.
The St. Jude treatment schedule:
- Second Brain Surgery at the end of June (Completed)
- Fertility treatment and egg retrieval (2 weeks)
- Proton Radiation Treatment with Chemotherapy (30 treatments over 6 weeks)
- 1-month rest
- 7 months of Chemotherapy at St Jude in Memphis
Everything has to be done in Memphis, this is adding to our family hardship. We had hoped Peoria could do the Chemo, but that is not the case.
After her final treatments at St. Jude, Summer was scanned again by MRI for signs of her cancer. It has come back.
The cancer is aggressive as I mentioned before. The growth is now in her spine and brain creating havoc with some of her basic functions like balance and vision. The doctors have given her a timeline of a possible 6 months of time remaining.
With this in mind, as soon as our son Aiden was out of college finals on May 24th, we loaded up an RV donated by my work (Fort's Toyota) and headed west for one of Summer's greatest joys... The National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program. We will hit as many national parks and historic places as we can before Summer says to turn around.
The final days of this fundraiser will be used to help pay for the trip, gas, hotels, food, and Angela's FMLA time.
It is likely that Angela's wages will take the largest brunt of these upcoming months and that will add to the pain of this experience. My philosophy of "credit cards be damned" for this final family vacation will be a brutal reality check in 30 days.
Summer is fighting hard and I am documenting it every day on my personal blog, www.planetstahl.com.
We thank you for thinking of her and hope you will keep her in your prayers. St Jude is one of the best places in the world for this type of cancer care, but this cancer is aggressive and nothing is for certain. We have a long way to go before we are clear.