Little Kol's Big Story

The middle child of Kirk and Kristen Friggstad, Kolbjorn (Kol) is eight-years old and is the only boy in the family of five children. Busy with piano, voice lessons, and home schooling, this Outlook, Saskatchewan family was unprepared for sudden change to their life when Kol was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Now, one year later, the entire Friggstad family is gearing up for the Saskatoon Spring Sprint  (now Brain Tumour Walk) to raise funds and awareness for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

In April 2010 Kol was suffering from regular headaches and nausea. Initially Kirk and Kristen thought it could have been food sensitivities, so they began changing diet and looking for patterns. Concerned about the headaches, Kristen took Kol to the doctor but because Kol also had ear and throat infections, that was determined to be the issue. Then on May 25, 2010 the headaches became much worse and just wouldn’t go away.

Then Kirk and Kristen became concerned about dehydration because Kol wasn’t keeping anything in his system. So on the night of Thursday, May 27, 2010, they took him to their local Emergency Room. The doctor sent Kol to Saskatoon right away; they were concerned it was meningitis. Most of that night was spent trying different medications, even morphine at one point, for Kol’s pain and nausea.

A CT scan was scheduled for 8:30 AM and later that morning, the Friggstads learned there was some form of mass in Kol’s brain which was blocking the natural drainage of the ventricles. It was pressure from the build-up of spinal fluid that had been causing the headaches. An MRI followed that afternoon and Kol was immediately scheduled for surgery. It was 36 hours between seeing the doctor at the ER in Outlook and surgery in Saskatoon. The surgery was Saturday morning, May 29. It was the same day of the Saskatoon Spring Sprint in 2010.

A week later, Kirk and Kristen learned the term, Supratentorial Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumour (sPNET). “We were completely shocked when we learned that it was a grade four tumour of a very aggressive form of cancer,” recalls Kristen.

Kol has since had 29 radiation treatments, which began July 7, 2010. Chemotherapy maintenance started in September with 28 day cycles times six, which just finished at the end of February. When asked what he remembers, Kol simple says, “My head really hurt. It’s pretty much all I remember.” He has returned to being an active eight year old where “Reading is my favourite and playing video games,” says Kol. “My life has changed. I’m having a lot more new foods and being careful about what I eat.”

While the ordeal was difficult on the entire family, “There was a lot of support from everybody. My parents cashed in their trip insurance and came home Sunday night,” recalls Kirk who cautions other families in a similar situation to “Not panic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help from those who offer it, and be willing to learn and do your own research. It’s been quite a learning curve.” One way the family has coped with the journey is by sharing it via their blog:

While the Friggstads are grateful to friends and family for their support, including with their four girls, Julianna, Mari, Birgitte, and Annika, they are also grateful for the support they received from Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. “For us it’s really been the handbook and the Saskatoon support group that have been most helpful, and are so important for those dealing with a brain tumour either themselves or with someone in their family. It would be much harder without the types of services Brain Tumour Foundation provides,” explains Kirk. “By the end of the first support group meeting we felt that these were our people and they could identify with what we were facing.” 

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Story posted: May 2011

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