For most of his six years of life, Max was the picture of health. He's never been hospitalized, he's rarely seen a doctor, he's never taken antibiotics or prescription medication, he's rarely sick... Until September 2017, when he started to get spells of vertigo after doing somersaults or spinning around too quickly. There were no other symptoms until mid-October, when he started to have problems with his balance. Melissa (mom) recognized that something was up and started to track his symptoms. We saw our family physician, we had a vestibular assessment with physiotherapy, we then got a referral to the pediatrician.
While waiting the two weeks for our pediatrician's appointment, things started to get worse. In the last week of October, he was easily fatigued, his eye-hand coordination was off, he was staggering, he often looked a little drunk and our articulate little boy started to experience problems with word-finding. Something was definitely up. We prayed that it was an inner ear issue.
On November 9th, we saw the pediatrician and she agreed, his balance was definitely off and after reviewing Melissa's 5 pages of notes, she agreed that an MRI of his cerebellum was warranted. This is where we hit our first glitch in the healthcare system, as we couldn't find anyone to do the MRI. While we were more than willing to travel, neither Prince George nor Kamloops would take him because of his age and B.C. Children's Hospital had a two-year waitlist. Throughout everything, he continued to sleep well, eat well and be in great spirits. He also continued to walk like a drunken sailor.
Max had his hearing tested on November 20th, results were normal and there were no concerns. He had his vision tested on November 21st. After dilating his pupils, the optometrist discovered that he had swelling of his optic nerve. She phoned the pediatrician immediately to express her concerns and the next morning, we were scheduled for an emergency CT scan at our local hospital in Williams Lake.
Our CT scan was November 22nd at 11:30am. Within 20 minutes, we knew it wasn't good news. By 1pm, we were sitting in the pediatrician's office and hearing news that no parent ever wants to hear. Max had a large tumour on his cerebellum and a significant amount of swelling at the front of his brain. It was very serious and required immediate treatment. By 5pm, Melissa and Max were air-lifted to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver to prepare for emergency brain surgery. This will forever be remembered as one of the worst days of our lives.
Max underwent a 4-hour surgery on November 24th, where they removed a golf-ball sized cyst from his cerebellum in addition to a fist-sized ball of fluid from the front of his brain. He handled the surgery well and we're now in the early stages of the recovery process. We haven't detected any changes in cognition, personality or speech. We don't yet know the residual effects he will experience on his motor skill development. The neurosurgeon is confident he was able to remove the tumour, we're now waiting to hear if it's cancerous or not.
If the tumour is benign, we will need to come down to Vancouver (a 7-hour drive from our home) for follow-up MRI imaging and be closely monitored for many years to come. We haven't allowed ourselves to consider the possibility that the tumour is malignant and ongoing treatment will be required. We will know the answer to this soon enough...
Max is an amazingly sweet, inquisitive and resilient child that is filled with so much love. It's so hard to understand why a brain tumour is part of his story but as his parents, we're committed to always helping him to see the light, to persevere, to laugh and to smile, regardless of the circumstances. Any funds raised through this GoFundMe campaign will be put towards Max and his travel adventures to B.C. Children's Hospital, making this as positive of an experience as possible.
Thank you in advance for any well-wishes, positive thoughts, monetary contributions and prayers.
Xo Melissa, Marc and Max
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