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Starlights

Every day in the United States, nearly 13 youngsters are diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer. These children are PBTF Stars, and their inspiring stories are our Starlights.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates, and read more stories here. Have you been affected by a childhood brain tumor? Share your story with us to be considered for Starlight publication.

You can locate a Starlight story by clicking on one of the links below. Starlight stories are arranged by the Star's first name.



April 17, 2015
Addison Compton

At a glance, it’s not obvious that 3-year-old Addison Compton has an astrocytoma.

The little girl from Georgia spends her days playing with dolls, running outside with her brothers and dressing up like a princess.

Addison appeared to be a healthy, happy toddler until the morning her mother found her unresponsive in her crib. “We thought she was having an allergic reaction to something,” says her mother, Samantha.

Addison was rushed to the hospital. “She kept having seizures back-to-back-to-back,” Samantha recalls.

“They said she could have a neurological disease…or it could be cancer, to prepare us before they performed a MRI,” she continues. “Cancer, however, never really crossed our minds. Never in our wildest dreams did we think our little girl would have cancer.”

In February 2013, a brain biopsy revealed the tumor was cancerous. Addison endured multiple treatments, as well as an experimental chemotherapy.

“The PBTF is an amazing organization. [The Georgia Chapter] has been one of our biggest supporters. They have helped us emotionally and financially. There were times we didn’t know what we were going to do and the PBTF stepped in and helped us. We can't thank them enough for everything they have done and continue to do for our family,” says Samantha.

Recently Addison and her family got some news that was hard to hear. After 16 months of treatment, her tumor had not gotten any smaller.

But Addison is a fighter. ”She wants to be a doctor when she grows up to make cancer go away,” Samantha says.

Thanks to Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation - Georgia Chapter for contributing Addison’s story.

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March 6, 2015
Alex Nunes

Tammy Odell remembers exactly when she knew something was wrong with her son, Alex Nunes.

“We were in the grocery store. He was 4 years old and being ornery,” she recalls. “I told him to get out of something and he turned around and he grinned. And his eyes were crossed.”

After that, Alex and Tammy ventured into three eye doctors’ offices before a CAT scan revealed a brain tumor.

Alex underwent a complete resection, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. “He had to learn to walk and talk again,” Tammy says. “But he bounced back.”

Today, Alex is a healthy 24-year-old. However, he does experience limitations because of his tumor. For instance, he can’t drive or handle money.

“I have to explain to [Alex], this is what happened to you, this is what you lived through, this is how strong you are,” Tammy says.

Raising awareness for children and families battling brain tumors is crucial to Tammy.

Her advice to newly diagnosed families: “Listen to yourself. You make sure you listen to yourself.” And for the children, Tammy says, “You’re special. You’re strong.”

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Sept. 19, 2014
Alfie Bills

When her son Alfie was just a baby, Claire Bills noticed that he seemed different from his siblings. She now says she always knew something wasn’t quite right.

Alfie was diagnosed with a neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1, and an optic glioma on his left optic nerve when he was 3. The NF1 has caused small tumors to develop on his body, but Claire says they don’t faze him. “He calls them his special spots and he is so proud of them,” she says.

The Bills are waiting for the results of a recent MRI. In the meantime, 6-year-old Alfie keeps smiling. “He is a happy little chappie and brings so much light to my life,” Claire says.

Share your story with us at http://pbtf.convio.net/family-resources/share-your-story/.

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May 11, 2014
Alyona Juntunen

During a routine eye exam at age 10, Alyona Juntunen covered one eye to read the letter chart. To her surprise, she could not see.

The eye exam spiraled into an MRI, a brain tumor diagnosis, six rounds of chemotherapy, brain surgery and proton radiation. As a result, Alyona has lost her pituitary gland and a significant amount of vision in one eye, but she’s cancer-free.

“She’s a fighter,” says her mother, Jayne. “[And now] she’s your typical preteen girl.”

Alyona is active on the swim team and in student government at her school in Minnesota. As a student council member, she gained her school’s approval for a “Gray Day” in May to promote brain cancer awareness.

When she grows up, she wants to help other kids by becoming a child life specialist.

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April 10, 2015
Amariyah Canady

Amariyah Canady loves to sing and dance. Whenever cartoons come on TV, she stops whatever she’s doing to sing the theme songs, says her mom, LaToya.

But in June 2013, LaToya noticed a change in her daughter. Amariyah stopped eating, “not even cookies, which a toddler usually would like,” LaToya says. “I watched her go from the weight of an average 15 month old to the size of a 3 to 6 month old and knew something more serious could be going on.”

After an MRI, doctors diagnosed Amariyah with a pilomyxoid astrocytoma and performed brain surgery. She spent a month of recovery time in the hospital.

“Watching Amariyah lay there and doctors moving quickly all around her was the hardest thing on us, knowing we couldn’t do anything for her,” LaToya recalls.

The tumor caused Amariyah to physically regress. She also had to learn to live life with a trach tube to help her breathe, which led to an additional month of in-patient rehabilitation.

“In spite of all that Amariyah has been through, she’s a normal, active 2 year old,” LaToya says. “She’s very smart and wise beyond her years. She takes her dolls and gets out the trach supplies and says she’s going to take care of them. I think this makes her feel in control of what she is experiencing.”

Amariyah turned 3 last month and gets to start school. Doctors told LaToya that Amariyah may experience difficulties when she starts school, so LaToya has worked closely with Amariyah to prepare her for class.

Amariyah knows her alphabet, can count to 30 and can identify her shapes and colors. LaToya also doesn’t want Amariyah to feel different from the other children at school so she taught Amariyah to refer to her trach as “her accessory.” She told her to feel proud of what she has because she is still with us.

Thanks to Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation - Georgia Chapter for contributing Amariyah’s story.

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May 16, 2014
Amaya Robinson

Amaya Robinson is an active 11 year old, says her mother, Melissa.

The Maryland preteen plays basketball and runs track, despite the fact she has fought five brain tumor recurrences.

Doctors first diagnosed Amaya with a glioblastoma multiforme tumor when she was 7.

Melissa says she knew something wasn’t quite right when her daughter began to stare blankly into the distance and started vomiting. But it was a seizure that landed Amaya in the hospital for an MRI, which revealed her tumor. “It’s been pretty rough,” Melissa says. “We are trying to be as normal as possible, but it’s hard…You don’t want to see your child go through that.”

One of the greatest challenges, Melissa says, is keeping her family motivated at all times. She also wants to generate awareness to help other families in the fight against brain tumors.

“I never really heard about someone having a brain tumor until my child was going through it,” she says. “You don’t think it would happen to you.”

**Amaya passed away in July 2014.

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May 29, 2014
Amy Brinton

Late in her ninth grade year, Amy Brinton started getting headaches. She also had trouble memorizing vocabulary words in English class and began to string together strange sentences.

After multiple trips to the doctor’s office and emergency room, an MRI confirmed that Amy had a brain tumor. Doctors diagnosed her with a pilocytic astrocytoma in 2011.

Despite her health battles, Amy continued to excel in her hometown of Hoover, Ala. She was a member of her high school’s drum line and a volunteer at the Birmingham Zoo. The Hoover High School senior homecoming queen also received the senior class superlative of "most inspiring" and the school’s "mountain top" award for her perseverance.

Now 18, Amy will attend Auburn University to study zoology this fall. Doctors will continue to monitor the small amount of tumor that remains.

“When you hear [your child has a brain tumor], it’s so scary. It’s doomsday,” says Amy’s mother, Rhonda. “But I want people to know it’s not definitive. Every bit of research that can be done will help.”

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May 20, 2014
Angel Watson

Buford Watson says his daughter Angel loved playing dolls and holding babies.

“Angel was one in a million,” he says. “She was loved by everyone who came in contact with her. Angel was indeed a perfect child.”

Doctors diagnosed Angel with a PNET brain tumor in March 2008. The first-grader succumbed to her illness in May 2011; two days shy of her 7th birthday.

“Angel was my oldest child,” Buford says. “She loved her brothers and sister and I keep going for them because I know she would want the best for her family.”

Through her battle, Buford says his daughter experienced tremors, paralysis and temporary blindness.

Today, he shares her story to raise awareness for the children and families facing this disease.

“There is nothing more heart wrenching than to listen to a terminal child talk about what they will do when they grow up, knowing they never will. They will never have their first love, first car and I'll never walk my daughter down the aisle. These children have their lives plucked from them and it isn't fair…. Raising awareness for these little angels could help with funding needed for research and provide a cure.”

To share your story and to help spread awareness, visit http://pbtf.convio.net/family-resources/share-your-story.

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March 20, 2015
Anna Price

Anna Price is committed to serving others, especially sick children.

The 17-year-old from South Carolina has faced a number of health concerns herself, including the diagnosis of a brain tumor, which led to blindness.

“My heart was broken when we got her diagnosis,” says her mother Robin, crying. “She’s faced everything like a trooper. She would go to chemo on Thursday and to school on Friday.”

Today, Anna continues to push forward and strives to be a positive role model for children facing their own health battles.

Anna has spoken at the PBTF’s Ride for Kids event, promoted a college dance marathon to raise money for a children’s hospital, led a toy drive and spoken to members of South Carolina’s General Assembly about blindness, among other accomplishments. She recently received the Prudential Spirit of Community award for her efforts.

“My family and friends, they are so supportive and loving and caring,” Anna says. “I have been so blessed to be surrounded by family who help me through the good days and the bad days.”

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May 31, 2014
Arielle B

Arielle is a typical 15-month-old, says her mom, Elizabeth.

She enjoys eating chili, brushing her teeth, playing patty-cake and pulling her siblings’ hair. The fact she can do these things is miraculous, Elizabeth says.

Arielle was born with a golf ball-sized brain tumor. Doctors gave her a zero percent chance of survival. “The oncologist said, ’Yes, she is going to die,’” Elizabeth recalls. “She proved them wrong by surviving six brain surgeries.”

Today, Arielle is doing well. A small amount of residual tumor remains stable, and doctors continue to monitor her.

“It's easy to think of a disease as being too rare to give much consideration, other than ‘Oh, how sad.’ I was one of those people,” Elizabeth says. “But now that I have been thrown into this world, I see how eerily common pediatric brain tumors are…No child should suffer as a result of poor funding.”

The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s mission is to eliminate the challenges of childhood brain tumors. We raise awareness about the disease and raise funds to fight it. Join our mission at www.curethekids.org.

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Jan. 30, 2015
Armani Carter

Before Kimberly Carter’s son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she didn’t pay attention to childhood cancer awareness groups.

But in June 2014, doctors diagnosed her infant son, Armani, with an inoperable tumor on his brain stem.

“Until you go through it, you don’t know how you’ll feel,” Kimberly says from her home in Georgia. “It hurts. You can’t do anything about it.”

Armani, now 1, has experienced countless seizures, 10 surgeries, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and a permanent feeding tube. Kimberly takes him to physical and occupational therapy three times a week so he can learn to sit up and crawl.

“We need to do more research and find more funding. Children are our world. Something has to be done,” she says. “People can rally around Super Bowl Sunday and basketball games, why not these children?”

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May 26, 2015
Arielle Carrieri

Doctors diagnosed Arielle Carrieri with a fibrillary astrocytoma when she was just 7 months old.

Since then, the 13-year-old from New Jersey has been through 11 surgeries and chemotherapy. Arielle’s tumor has also rendered her legally blind and adrenal insufficient, says her mother, Laura Ferris.

But Arielle works to overcome challenges from her brain tumor. She has learned to read braille, and participates in stage productions like “Annie,” which she opened with a song.

In school she focuses on life skills to make everyday situations easier, such as pouring a drink into a glass, even operating a drill press in woodshop.

“She amazes me every day…I’m very proud of her,” Laura says. “Arielle is a very positive and cheerful little girl despite her daily difficulties.”

Donate in honor of Stars like Arielle:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1318191&pg=personal&fr_id=1510

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Sept. 19, 2014
Alfie Bills

When her son Alfie was just a baby, Claire Bills noticed that he seemed different from his siblings. She now says she always knew something wasn’t quite right.

Alfie was diagnosed with a neurofibromatosis type 1, or NF1, and an optic glioma on his left optic nerve when he was 3. The NF1 has caused small tumors to develop on his body, but Claire says they don’t faze him. “He calls them his special spots and he is so proud of them,” she says.

The Bills are waiting for the results of a recent MRI. In the meantime, 6-year-old Alfie keeps smiling. “He is a happy little chappie and brings so much light to my life,” Claire says.

Share your story with us at http://pbtf.convio.net/family-resources/share-your-story/.

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Dec. 12 , 2014
Ascher Shostak

By Chloe Logan
The sky is the limit for Ascher Shostak, says his mother, Helen.

Ascher, a sixth grader, is an honor roll student, First Class Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and enjoys sports like martial arts and golf.

To achieve success, the 11-year-old had to first overcome serious health obstacles. At age 3, Ascher experienced overwhelming headaches that led to the diagnosis of a nongerminomatous germ cell tumor.

Ascher had surgery to remove the tumor, and then experienced muscle weakness and memory issues. Five weeks post-surgery he regained the ability to walk.

His parents have high hopes for their smart and talented son, and provide emotional support for other families in similar situations.

This story was contributed by Chloe Logan. To find out how you can help children like Ascher, visit www.curethekids.org.

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Jan. 9, 2015
Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner fills her days with painting, drawing and spending time with family.

The high school junior from Georgia is also a 10-year cancer survivor. Doctors diagnosed Ashley with a brain tumor at age 6, and she faced a recurrence two years later. Her mother Rina says it was if they had to “start all over.”

Today, Ashley is cancer free. However, she lives with the side effects of the tumor, such as a lack of peripheral vision.

As for the future, Ashley has goals of working for a nonprofit and helping others. Rina encourages other families facing a brain tumor diagnosis to “stay positive and stay in faith.”

This story was contributed by student Chloe Logan. To find out how you can help Stars like Ashley, visit www.curethekids.org.

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May 1, 2014
Aubrey King

To Aubrey King having a brain tumor is normal.

Diagnosed with a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma at age 3, “She doesn’t know life any other way,” her mother, Tracy, says. “To us, it’s like treating a chronic illness.”

Now 12, Aubrey continues to fight her tumor with chemo every other week. The Minnesota seventh grader also continues to do what she loves. Aubrey is a black belt in karate, she plays softball, skis, enjoys ice skating and has competed in a kids’ triathlon.

She also finds comfort in animals, especially her family’s two dogs, and has mentioned wanting to own a pet hotel one day.

As Aubrey fights to stay healthy, her mother helps raise awareness and funds for brain tumor research. “Our hope is one day she will get years of stability,” Tracy says. “Right now, there is no cure.”

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May 28, 2015
Ava Hadfield

At 5 years old, Ava Hadfield can tell you what medications she takes and the type of brain tumor she has – a ganglioglioma.

Ava has been through two brain surgeries (one of which lasted 14 hours), 42 weeks of chemotherapy and 31 rounds of radiation since her diagnosis two years ago.

Mandy Hadfield jokes that her daughter could become a nurse or doctor with all the medical information she’s learned. However, Ava, from Alberta, Canada, has her sights set on becoming a makeup artist or fashion designer.

“We’ve always said Ava is an old soul. She is wise beyond her years,” Mandy says. “Unfortunately she’s had to grow up a lot quicker than other 5 year olds.”

Radiation and chemotherapy haven’t been effective against Ava’s tumor, so she’s about to start a clinical trial of targeted therapy.

Mandy encourages other families in a similar health battle to not “let your highs get too high and your lows get too low. Keep yourself level.”

To honor children like Ava as they continue the fight of their lives, visit
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1319428&pg=personal&fr_id=1510

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Aug. 1, 2014
Axton Morris

Axton Morris is a Star – a childhood brain tumor survivor.

The 11-year-old Georgia native has seen his share of doctors’ offices and operating rooms. He has endured pokes and prods, and experienced vision deficits.

But he defeated his juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma.

“He pulled through great. We were lucky,” says his mom Lacey, as she holds back tears. “It’s so overwhelming being a parent and not knowing what may happen.”

Axton said therapy dogs helped him feel better while he was in the hospital. His favorite was Sally, a golden retriever who snuggled in bed with him.

“Parents have to be aware of this disease. And there needs to be more funding,” says Axton’s father, Brad.

Today, Axton is out of the hospital and on the soccer field. He plays goalie and defense, and also enjoys video games.

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March 27, 2015
Brandon Woody

Before doctors diagnosed Brandon Woody with a brain tumor, he experienced virus-like symptoms, says his mom, Lila.

“The doctors said it was a virus, but my husband and I knew something else was wrong,” she says.

A CT scan in August 2014 revealed a medulloblastoma. Since his diagnosis, Brandon, 6, has experienced physical therapy, six weeks of radiation, and chemotherapy, among other treatments.

“He amazes me," Lila says. "He never complains about all the doctors’ visits or having to be in the hospital often, he has just accepted it and goes on.” Brandon, now in first grade, is homeschooled. He has trouble walking, but that doesn’t keep him from playing outside with his brother, Brody.

Brandon’s blue eyes and smile light up a room. Lila says, “He is funny, energetic, and shy, but the most loving and kind-hearted.”

Thanks to Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation - Georgia Chapter for contributing Brandon’s story.

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May 27, 2015
Brayden Yorchak

Brayden Yorchak is an 8 year old who loves reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, playing outside with his brother and sister, and participating in Cub Scouts.

The straight-A second-grader from Pennsylvania has had to overcome many challenges over the past two years to be able to enjoy these daily activities, including learning to sit up, move his neck and walk.

“To look at Brayden, you would never know the problems he has had,” says his mother, Minde.

At 6 years old, doctors diagnosed Brayden with an ependymoma after he experienced severe headaches and dizziness.

“Our lives changed forever in that moment,” Minde said.

In addition to brain surgery, Brayden completed chemotherapy and now has routine MRIs.

About raising awareness, Minde said, “It is so important to raise awareness for childhood brain tumors and cancers mainly because they are so underfunded. If they received more funding and more research and testing were performed, more children could be saved.”

Make your donation in honor of children like Brayden:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1322502&pg=personal&fr_id=1510.

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Feb. 13, 2015
Breanna Wiseman

When Breanna Wiseman grows up, she plans to teach music to other blind children.

The 9-year-old learned to read music in braille after a brain tumor robbed her of her vision.

Breanna endured brain surgery and radiation to treat a tangerine-sized craniopharyngioma a year ago, says her mother, Heather.

During Breanna’s diagnosis and treatment, her family found comfort in the small, “normal” aspects of life, such as singing in the car and playing board games.

“It’s OK to be upset and frustrated and scared,” Heather says. “But find something that puts the normal back.”

Today, Breanna fills her time with Girl Scouts, choir and guitar, church and school. She and her twin sister are also members of the honor roll.

“She is the same bubbly, happy child she was before the surgery,” Heather says. The family attends the PBTF’s South Carolina Midlands Ride for Kids event. Learn more and register to ride at www.rideforkids.org.

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May 19, 2014
Brendan Hemphill

Before doctors diagnosed Brendan Hemphill with a brain tumor, he experienced flu-like symptoms, says his mom, Melissa Keen.

“He was diagnosed with a virus that was going around,” Melissa says. But when Brendan began to have frequent seizures, she knew it wasn’t just a virus.

A CT scan revealed a pineal parenchymal tumor. Since diagnosis, Brendan, age 1, has experienced paralysis, chemotherapy, recurrences and brain surgery, among other medical concerns.

“He’s a little miracle,” Melissa says. Her advice to other parents in a similar situation is to be advocates for their children.

“If we would have not been advocates for Brendan, we would have lost Brendan,” Melissa says. “You have to find that courage.”

Melissa says she shares Brendan’s story in an effort to raise awareness about the disease and the lack of funding for research.

She says, “We’re going to have to make some noise so people will listen.”

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May 17, 2015
Brieanan Jerome

Erica Jerome remembers being one of the last people in the hospital lobby at the end of the day as she waited on her daughter, Brieanan, to get out of brain surgery.

When doctors emerged, they said they were able to completely remove Brieanan’s tumor. However, they warned the family that the little girl might not wake up, due to brain damage caused by an earlier stroke.

Erica sobs as she relives her daughter’s diagnosis and treatment. “It’s something that’s really hard to go through. It was a really big shock for us. We didn’t have cancer in our family,” she says.

Now 3, Brieanan is healthy and enjoys being outside, cuddling and throwing the occasional temper tantrum.

The little girl from Tennessee still faces many challenges. She has learned to live with tracheal and feeding tubes, but she continues to smile.

“No mother should ever have to see her baby on a table with wires and tubes before she's has even learned to talk,” Erica says. “No parents should have to see an MRI showing the drastic brain damage their 10-month-old has suffered, being told that she may never wake up.”

To help children like Brieanan, donate today:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1318188&pg=personal&fr_id=1510.

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May 25, 2015
Brody Bates

On Memorial Day we honor those who died in active military service. Today we’re also remembering Tumor Trooper Brody Bates.

Every holiday, Brody would insist on taking gifts to doctors and nurses at the hospital.

From Easter baskets to chocolate-covered strawberries on Valentine’s Day, the first grader made sure he took care of his caretakers.

“They were like family to him,” says his mom, Tammy.

Brody spent two years in and out of hospitals after being diagnosed with a medulloblastoma following a football injury in 2007.

“Brody was very determined through the whole thing,” Tammy recalls. “He wanted normalcy. If he felt good, he went to school. He didn’t want to be treated like he was sick.”

And when Brody wasn’t feeling well, he and his best friend would sit on the sidewalk together during recess and talk. He also confided in his older brother, Brockton, who would often sneak into Brody’s room at night and sleep on the floor.

Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of Brody’s passing, but his memory lives on in the lives of friends, family, doctors and nurses who were affected by his kind heart. Tammy credits her family’s faith and support system for getting them through rough days.

“As hard as the journey is, there are memories and friends you’ve made that you wouldn’t trade,” she says. “They are the angels that help us along the way.”

Tammy continues to fight for children like Brody in her role as director of patient and family services at the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Georgia Chapter.

“I want to be a glimmer of hope [for these families], even if it’s just for a moment,” she says.

Give hope to families like Brody’s by making a donation today:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1287679&pg=personal&fr_id=1510.

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May 18, 2015
Brody Etelamaki

Brody Etelamaki enjoyed all things outdoors – four-wheeling, snowmobiling, camping, playing with his dogs and getting dirty in the mud.

He also had a love for Mickey Mouse, chocolate milk and his siblings, says his mom, Tanya.

But the diagnosis of a glioblastoma robbed the Michigan 4-year-old of his time with his favorite things. Brody passed away in April 2014, after two brain surgeries, multiple shunt surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

“Brody fought hard for a year,” Tanya says. “He was a courageous little boy who always had a smile.” She says it’s her job to continue to raise awareness for children who are fighting brain tumors.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re black, white, rich or poor,” Tanya says. “It can happen to you. I wasn’t a cancer mom either. I wasn’t aware of the statistics. I will not stop fighting.”

Give hope to families like Brody’s by making a donation today:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1318176&pg=personal&fr_id=1510.

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May 17, 2014
Brody O’Donnell

Doctors gave Brody O’Donnell a 10 percent chance of survival when he was diagnosed with an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor at 11 months old.

Two years later, his MRI scans are clear.

“He’s your typical little 3-year-old,” says his mom, Elizabeth. “You would never know he had a brain tumor.”

After the diagnosis, Elizabeth says her family refused to give up. Brody endured seven months of treatment that included high-dose chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiation.

Today, Brody is out of the hospital. He plays in a children’s gym and takes music classes. “We’re just enjoying life,” Elizabeth says.

“It’s important to share your story. We’re here. There are survivors.”

You can help raise awareness by telling us your story at www.curethekids.org/family-resources/share-your-story.

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Dec. 5, 2014
Brooke Emery

Brooke Emery, a 17-year old from Lake City, Fla., has an associate’s degree in political science, works part-time for a medical supply company and is in the top 10 percent of her class – and she hasn’t even graduated from high school.

“She’s just very goal-oriented,” says Brooke’s mom, Elise. “She’s just really driven.”

However, Brooke faced many challenges before getting to where she is today. As a toddler, her frequent head rubbing was attributed to hereditary headaches. By the time she was 7, her head hurt more often and she began throwing up at school.

Brooke was diagnosed with an inoperable optic glioma. “It was like having bubble gum stuck on thousands of strands of hair,” says Elise. “It’s not removable, or she’d go blind.”

During chemotherapy treatments, Brooke needed round-the-clock care, so Elise quit her job to stay home. Brooke’s dad took a job as a truck driver to support the family and was on the road a lot.

The Brain Tumor Foundation for Children, now the Georgia Chapter of the PBTF, was able to help by offering the family financial assistance. The Butterfly Fund is available for children being treated for a brain tumor at 21 partner hospitals. “That was a big, big help,” Elise says.

You can learn more about our Georgia Chapter and its programs by visiting www.curethekids.org/ga.

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July 11, 2014
Caroline Legg

Caroline Legg went to the eye doctor after having trouble with her peripheral vision. That appointment started a whirlwind of events, including an MRI.

On her 13th birthday, doctors diagnosed Caroline with a craniopharyngioma. Weeks later, she went into surgery to remove it.

“Everything healed so perfectly,” the 13-year-old says with a smile. “I’m doing perfect.”

Today, she says she enjoys being busy. She attends summer camp, is a leader on her school’s 4-H team, is in horse club and hopes to become a part of the swim team.

Caroline says she tries to always have a positive outlook on her future.

“Even if you don’t understand, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she advises other children.

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May 7, 2014
Catherine

Catherine is in a fight for her life.

The 18-year-old and her mother, Patricia, are working with doctors from around the country to combat Catherine’s Grade IV glioblastoma.

Doctors diagnosed the New England resident at 17. She has endured three surgeries and radiation, and is currently on chemotherapy.

Patricia quit her job to become her daughter’s full-time caregiver, and hasn’t left her side yet. “We’re very hopeful,” Patricia says. “We’re looking for that miracle. We’re looking for cutting-edge therapy.”

Before her diagnosis, Catherine played field hockey and excelled in school, and she continues to focus on daily activities despite her health issues. She works part-time, enjoys going to concerts and hopes to attend college this fall.

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May 13, 2014
Cheyanne LaLiberte

When Sandra LaLiberte found out daughter Cheyanne had a brain tumor, she thought she was in the middle of a nightmare.

Cheyanne, then 3, sat on a gurney playing with stickers when doctors broke the news to her parents, Sandra says.

“To see that little head and this huge tumor, I thought, ‘This has got to be a bad dream,’” she recalls.

But Cheyanne fought back. She endured six brain surgeries to eliminate the pilocytic astrocytoma. “She’s my biggest hero,” Sandra says. “She’s never said, ‘Why me?’”

Today, Cheyanne is 15 and a freshman in high school. When she isn’t listening to her iPod or maintaining straight A’s, the Boston native is doing her part to raise awareness by selling handmade bracelets. She’s made more than 5,000 so far.

“I may have gone through a lot, but I think I'm stronger than ever,” Cheyanne says. “I'm a fighter.”

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June 20, 2014
Collin Roberts

Collin Roberts is like any other 8-year-old, says his mom, Tessa.

He loves to play outside, ride his bike and play with his sisters. His favorite thing to do is dress up like superheroes, especially Spider-Man.

“I tell him all the time that he is a real-life superhero,” Tessa says. That’s because Collin is a two-time brain tumor survivor. Doctors first diagnosed Collin with an ependymoma at age 2 and it recurred at age 7. In total, he’s battled more than 60 days of radiation and two craniotomies.

“It amazes me that he has been through so much in his short lifetime but he always, always manages to keep a smile on his face,” Tessa says. “It's all I need.”

Tessa said it crucial to spread the word about the disease. “Raising awareness is so important because awareness increases funding for research which will ultimately lead to a cure!”

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May 18, 2014
Connor Ledene

Tammy Ledene thinks about her daughter, Connor, every day.

Doctors diagnosed Connor with a glioma in February 2008. Connor lost her battle with the disease about seven months later.

“No 8-year-old should ever have to find out she has cancer,” Tammy says.

Today, Tammy says she aims to spread awareness about the disease by sharing Connor’s story. “I talk about her all the time,” she says. “I was blessed with that little girl.”

Tammy says Connor showed strength and courage during her battle. In between treatments, Connor helped to spread joy through her music – playing guitar, violin and piano. Her mother says, “She handled her illness with more humility and grace than I could ever express.”

Nearly 13 children in the United States are diagnosed with a brain tumor every day. Find out how you can make a difference in their lives today by visiting www.curethekids.org.

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April 3, 2015
Cora Kelly

Darlene Kelly remembers her daughter Cora as a “princess tomboy.”

“She loved wearing dresses and pretty shoes, but she could pal around,” Darlene says. Cora, an artistic 11-year-old from Alabama, taught herself how to paint nails and was often on the hunt for the next best lipstick color. And in her free time, she watched princess movies. She loved “The Princess and the Frog” so much that she insisted her family vacation in New Orleans, where the movie took place. Cora’s parents didn’t hesitate to take their daughter to Louisiana to get a taste of beignets.

The family focused on making good memories together to get through difficult days following Cora’s brain tumor diagnosis in August 2012.

She endured 31 radiation treatments and six months of chemotherapy before her tumor resurfaced. Cora passed away in August 2014.

Throughout her illness, she stayed positive. She could even tell when others were having a bad day and was known to give strangers a hug to brighten their spirits.

“Cora had such a bright outlook. She kept a smile on her face,” Darlene recalls. “She was beautiful.”

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July 4, 2014
Daniel Alexander

Daniel Alexander was playing a round of miniature golf when he lost his balance, fell and hit his head.

A trip to the emergency room to make the 9-year-old was OK led to the diagnosis of a brain tumor, says his mom, Karen.

The Illinois native encountered surgery, chemotherapy, a blood clot in his heart, temporary paralysis and physical therapy.

“We almost lost him a few times,” Karen recalls.

At 12, Daniel is not only walking again, but playing basketball and running, He participates in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Ride for Kids event. And, the Notre Dame baseball team has rallied around him.

“People have no idea how many children are diagnosed,” Karen says. “We just need to make people aware. We need more money for our kids.”

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May 14, 2015
Dominic Majorie

Doctors are stunned that Dominic Majorie can walk and communicate with his family, says his mom, Lacey.

The Louisiana native was just 2 years old when he was diagnosed with multiple tumors in his brain and spine, which remain in his body today.

Lacey says that she and her husband knew something was wrong with Dominic when he began to have brief tremors. Doctors were convinced Dominic had tuberculosis. Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, the family sought a second opinion nearly six hours from their home. There, doctors concluded that the toddler had a neuroepithelial tumor.

Dominic has since gone through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.

“He swallows his medication like a champ, receives platelets like it’s nothing and plays while chemo is pumped into his body,” Lacey says.

A year into treatment, Dominic’s tumors show no growth. Lacey says he is a typical 3-year-old who enjoys painting, playing with his younger brother and spotting airplanes.

“People don’t want to think about kids having cancer,” Lacey says. “Kids like Dominic are our future.”

You can donate in honor of Dominic and other children with brain tumors:
http://pbtf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1318180&pg=personal&fr_id=1510.

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Oct. 24, 2014
Eli Williams

As 2011 drew to a close, Eli Williams complained of neck pain and went to the doctor several times with a runny nose, upset stomach and slight fever. The 7-year-old experienced double vision when watching television. After he didn’t want to get out of bed on Christmas morning, his family took him to emergency room in his hometown of Athens, Ala.

An MRI revealed over half a dozen tumors in Eli’s pituitary gland and down his spine. Before he was even out of the machine, an ambulance was called to transport him to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.

Eli had surgery for medulloblastoma a few days later, followed by 10 months of chemotherapy and radiation at St. Jude.

“He didn’t suffer like other kids. This hadn’t debilitated him,” says his mother, Kristie. “He was back in school and good for 14 months.”

When Eli’s tumor returned in January, he started low-dose chemotherapy. Now 9, he has MRIs every eight to twelve weeks. Kristie says his scans look good.

“Eli is a cars guy,” Kristie says. “Mustangs are his favorite and he’s been able to visit the factory in Michigan, which was a really special thing.”

Like many parents of children with brain tumors, Kristie has found a community of support on social media. We invite you to connect with us and other families here. You can also reach us at 800-253-6530 or familysupport@curethekids.org.

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Aug. 15, 2014
Ethan Anderson

Ethan Anderson taught himself to play the guitar, and loves playing hard rock, says his dad, Drew.

But Ethan now has trouble picking up his guitar. He is battling neuropathy (damage to nerves) as a result of a medulloblastoma.

His dad recalls the day Drew’s health began to spiral downward. It was just after Christmas in 2013 and they were in a guitar store. Ethan had received gift cards and was picking out a new instrument.

As Ethan went to the counter with his dad to pay, he felt overheated and needed fresh air. Next he collapsed in his dad’s arms.

Several emergency room visits later, Ethan received a CAT scan that revealed his tumor.

He has since battled through surgery and radiation, and is currently going through chemotherapy. Ethan graduated from high school in May and plans to become a motorcycle mechanic or join the military.

“We have to do more research to figure out how these things happen,” Drew says.

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