Joshua's Story: Where our footsteps lead...

Joshua's Story: Where our footsteps lead...

My son's challenge has expanded my heart to have compassion for all families facing similar circumstances.

In September 2015, my then four year old son Joshua seemed to start daydreaming. We noticed this happening shortly after he started Kindergarten. Whenever we mentioned this to people, they told us not to worry, it's nothing. Or we were told that their kids do the same thing and it's perfectly normal. 
 
Then a couple of months later, we noticed that there was more to it than that. His "daydreams" gradually caused him to become more and more unresponsive and have balance problems. We took him to our family doctor who referred us to a pediatrician. The pediatrician requested a battery of tests. Surprisingly, everything came back normal.
 
Joshua's episodes worsened to the point where he would fall and shake, his eyes rolling to the side. Although they lasted just a minute, it seemed like an eternity before his seizure would stop and he would return to normal. In May 2016, one seizure caused Joshua to fall and hit his head heavily at school. My wife took him to our local hospital and the attending doctor admitted him overnight per suspected concussion protocol. More tests were done and the pediatrician on call told us he wanted us to see a brain specialist at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton.
 
We waited seven months for the appointment. In late November 2016, the pediatric neurologist told us he suspected it was epilepsy, but ordered an MRI just to be sure. In January 2017 Josh had his MRI, a week later we met with the neurologist to discuss results. He showed us photos of Josh’s brain, one revealing something very unusual - a wedge shape that extended from the far right side and stopped just short of the centre.
 
We sat in horror as the doctor stopped the pictures on the computer screen and very slowly said "This... is a Dysembryoplastic Neuroepithelial Tumour..." He explained that it's a slow growing, very rare form of tumour. He also said he had already been in touch with the hospital's pediatric epilepsy specialist, the pediatric neurosurgeon team, and the pediatric neuro oncologist, and we could expect appointments with all of these doctors. 
 
I vividly remember how surreal the whole ordeal of that visit was. In the coming weeks we saw all of those specialists and they felt strongly that Joshua's seizures were a direct result of his brain tumour. The unanimous decision was to remove the tumour.
 
Throughout this time Joshua continued attending Silverheights School. Everyone was exceptional. In late April, they sent a letter home with Josh saying they had been approved by the school board to do a fundraiser and raise awareness on Joshua's behalf. 
 
I cried as I read it, deeply touched that his school and wonderful teachers were so willing to help my young son. I phoned my mom and she wept as well as I read it to her, because she was also so amazed at their kindness. My wife and I are humbled that so many people are donating time, money, and efforts on his behalf. 
 
Joshua and his little brother JaydenMy son turned six in mid-May, and his tumour was removed on Monday May 29, 2017. As I update this, he is home with me and my wife, and playing with his two year old brother. He still has a long road ahead for recovery but Joshua is my champion and I am proudly walking for him. His neurosurgeon has predicted that on June 11 Joshua will be able to walk with me at the Kitchener Brain Tumour Walk.
 
Thank you everyone that has made this happy ending possible: Joshua, my wonderful wife, Joshua's surgeon and the amazing team at McMaster Children's Hospital, friends and family, and everybody who has donated. Thank you especially to Silverheights Elementary for the opportunity to take action for others. Monies raised through the Brain Tumour Walk strengthen the national movement to end this life-changing disease and bring hope to individuals and families across the country.
 
Update: Joshua did the walk on June 11, and he rocked it. We felt so much love and support for my little boy, we were inspired by stories from other survivors, and, in turn, everyone there seemed so inspired by the fact that this sweet six year old, who just recently had his tumour removed, was able to do the Brain Tumour Walk. We are very proud of him, and we receive so much encouragement and support from the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with so much love. You have made this journey much more bearable.
Thank you Richard for sharing your story with us. Thank you Joshua for walking in the Brain Tumour Walk event just two weeks after surgery. We are grateful that you and your family have joined the movement to end brain tumours. The movement is stronger because of you!

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