Community unites to help boy with tumor on brain stem

 

DOVER — On what seemed like a normal Thursday earlier this year, the world was turned upside down for sixth-grader Thomas Carey and his family after a bump on the head landed him in the hospital.

Thomas fell in gym class on Jan. 7 and was knocked unconscious when he hit the ground. He was out for between 30 and 45 seconds, making a concussion seem likely.

Twelve-year-old Thomas Carey was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his brain stem earlier this year and has upcoming chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Two fundraisers are scheduled for this weekend to help his family with travel costs and medical bills. (Submitted photo)

Twelve-year-old Thomas Carey was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his brain stem earlier this year and has upcoming chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Two fundraisers are scheduled for this weekend to help his family with travel costs and medical bills. (Submitted photo)

To find out whether or not Thomas had a concussion, his mother, April MacLeish of Marydel, called his pediatrician who referred her to Bayhealth for a C/T scan.

The scan didn’t show evidence of a concussion, but it did show an unusual mass on his brain stem.

“The scary thing about it was there were no previous warning signs that anything was wrong,” said Jen Allen of Dover, Thomas’ aunt.

Due to his age, Bayhealth referred Thomas to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington to have the growth tested. When bad news came, Ms. MacLeish took Thomas to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion.

Children’s Hospital confirmed early suspicions that the mass on Thomas’ brain stem was juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma — a cancerous tumor.

“There are still a lot of unknowns,” Ms. MacLeish said. “Right now we know it’s a JPA tumor but it’s not in a typical location so he’ll be undergoing more testing.”

But more testing won’t change the major problem — since the tumor is on Thomas’ brain stem, it can not be surgically removed, so chemotherapy and radiation are the next steps.

“We know right now that he will be starting chemo in May and that’s really the only thing we’re certain of at this point,” Ms. MacLeish said.

The chemotherapy will be followed by rounds of radiation to shrink the tumor.

His mom and stepfather, Josh MacLeish, will drive him to and from treatments and testing in Philadelphia all while raising three other children. To help alleviate some of the financial strain, two fundraisers are being held this weekend to help cover the costs of travel and medical bills.

The first is at 6 tonight at Marydel Fire Company — the “Country Strong Thomas Tough Benefit.”

“There was a Facebook post circulating and someone tagged me asking if we could help out,” said Randy Barr, coordinator of fire hall rentals. “And we always try to help members of our community as much as possible.”

Country musician Sam Grow was tagged in the post asking for help too.

“He responded in probably less than five minutes, and he said he was willing to help us out,” Mr. Barr said. “And it’s pretty cool because he has some songs on the radio around here and in Maryland too.”

The event starts at 6 p.m. tonight at Marydel Fire Hall and tickets are $20 at the door. Aside from the music, there also will be a silent auction and food will be available for purchase.

On Sunday, the American Legion is hosting the music-filled fundraiser “Rocking Out for Thomas Tough” from noon to 6:30 p.m. at Walter L. Fox Post 2 in Dover. The event starts with Shades of August followed by Fuzzbox Piranha at 2, Joey Fulkerson at 3:30 and Key of Red with Adam Murray at 5.

Rocking Out is $10 per ticket at the door and kids 12 and younger get in for free. There will be a silent auction 50/50 and food available. Post 2 is at 835 Bay Road.

“I know Thomas’ grandpa Ron Knowles. When he told me what was happening I offered to volunteer my time,” Mr. Fulkerson said. “It’s heartbreaking to hear of a young person going through something so tough. He should only be worried about kid stuff.”

And that’s been difficult for Thomas: He has spent a lot of time out of school since the news came.

“It’s been hard on him,” Ms. MacLeish said. “He’s been back in school for two weeks now but he really can’t do anything other than sit in class. No sports or anything like that. And he’s always really liked football but now we know it’s something he probably won’t be able to do.”

But Mr. Barr said there are some surprises in store for Thomas at the fire hall like a visit from his favorite college mascot, YoUDee from the University of Delaware, and tickets for a Blue Rocks game.

“As always, the local music community pulled together along with the incredible behind-the-scenes volunteers to help this family get through these troubled times,” Mr. Fulkerson said.

More information about each event is available on its respective Facebook page: Marydel Volunteer Fire Company and WLFoxPost2.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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