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Hugh's Story: Lessons in Coping | Anaplastic Astrocytoma

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Hugh's Story: Lessons in Coping

Posted on Nov 14, 2011

Katherine Maw is the mother of Hugh, a 4-year old diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma. Here, she shares Hugh’s story and, based on her personal experience, offers guidance to families going through a similar ordeal.

Cancer in any young child is always a surprise. Hugh was a fun, active four year old – he was like any other kid. He began having headaches and vomiting in May 2011. So after a week of headaches we took him into emergency where a CT scan was done. A nurse took Hugh for a walk so the doctors could talk to mom & dad. Our lives were forever changed on that day. There was a brain tumor. He has Anaplastic Astrocytoma Grade 3 – in other words - a terrible diagnosis that carries a 30% chance of survival in the first year. We were not ready to accept those odds.

We didn’t leave the hospital for a month – there were 3 major brain surgeries. The first was to remove the pressure on his brain, the second to put in a shunt (as the first surgery wasn’t successful) and the third - after we found out that the tumor was cancer - to remove as much as possible. Shortly after recovery we began radiation and chemotherapy. To suggest it was a roller coaster is an understatement. During this process the doctor would always explain the possible outcomes from each test. Every time the results came back, it was always the possibility we weren’t hoping for.

Finally, 6 months into this process we saw a glimmer of light. Hugh’s latest MRI came back with only radiation damage – it looks like (fingers crossed) that the cancer isn’t back. In Hugh’s words – Mommy no more needles, I feel better.

Cancer has rocked our family and friends to the core. It is too horrific to even explain to friends and family what Hugh has experienced. Hugh has had to face challenges in his life that as parents, we have never had to summon the courage to face. He has done it with grace and such a positive attitude. If you want to read Hugh’s full story, you can find it here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/hughmaw.

To any other family dealing with this I would look at myself 6 months ago and recommend this:

  1. Every day is a new day – and there is always hope that the current course can change.
  2. Accept help from everyone. Appoint someone to keep a list of what you need and be your quarterback (e.g. coordinate food, pick up of other kids, etc.)
  3. Contact others – find someone else going through the same experience. Connecting with other Moms going through the same experience has been lifeline.

Lainie’s Angels is dedicated to providing guidance and peer support to the parents and families of children suffering from cancer and blood disorders. We believe that by sharing your story with us, you’ll help families across the globe learn new ways to cope and to know that they’re not alone.


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