Brendan was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma on May 6, 2008 - the day after his 12th birthday. Brendan's only symptom was blood in his urine 1 week before. His dad took him to the local ER and a tumor was found in his right kidney. By that evening, he was admitted to Children's Memorial and the decision was made to remove his kidney even before we knew it was cancer. This was a difficult surgery, but we were assured he would live a perfectly normal life with one kidney and could even play sports. One week later, pathology confirmed our greatest fear - cancer. This is a very rare cancer in children.
Brendan had many more tests to be sure that cancer had not spread to the brain or bones or any other organs. We were very scared of what the future would hold. For the next two years, scans were repeated every three months. In the begining, the thoughts of these tests were terrifying . We were told several times that it would get easier, and it really did. It definitely was a roller coaster. There were days of hearing positive news and feeling good and there were days of hearing something scarry and feeling like we could not breathe. But yes, as time went on it did get easier. Brendan is now checked every six months and his prognosis is very, very good.
It is hard to understand why any of this happened, but with support of family, friends, neighbors and excellent doctors at Childrens Memorial we got through - we are getting through. Everyone is different, but for us, it helped to talk about it. At first, we did not know if we wanted to tell people what was going on, but we found that it felt good to know that people were out there who were thinking of us and pulling for Brendan.
Because of Brendan's age, it is also a lot to deal with emotionally for him. Middle school is difficult for all kids, but Brendan has a lot more to worry about. I know there has to be something in his future that is going to better because this happened. He is going to do something great! He has a different perspective on a lot of things and he had to mature quickly in some ways, but after all - he is still a kid. I think the emotional part may be the hardest part for him. In the first year especially, he had some difficulty sleeping. It has brought us closer in many ways. We have been through something that not everyone can understand.
The fact that Brendan was diagnosed with cancer is never far from our thoughts. I think about it less now than I did in the begining, but it is still often in my mind. Two years later though, I do not really think of the bad part. I now think more about how thankful I am that we had so much support and such great doctors. I think about how we have learned to take nothing for granted and to appreciate everything and every moment. After Brendan's recovery, we had a celebration and began doing a little fundraising for kid's cancer research. It helped us to think about something else and to focus on something good. I wish for his sake that Brendan did not have to go through the pain, the tests, or the worry. It seems like no kid should have to go through that. Nobody knows why. We just have to keep going and get through it the best we can and focus on the future will being a better place for our kids.
Here is a photo of Brendan today, as well as one taken shortly after his May 2008 surgery to remove his tumor.
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