Welcome to Brayden's CaringBridge! “I have cancer….” These are three words you hope to never hear from a family member, especially not from the mouth of a 6-year-old. However, on August 23, 2017 the fight against childhood cancer became a reality for our family. This is Brayden’s story I’ve never been a very good writer or story teller for that matter, but I could write an entire book about Brayden. He has more love to give than perhaps any child I have ever met and a killer smile that will absolutely melt your heart. One thing you must know about him, he absolutely worships his dad. Brayden loves to dance, sing, music of any kind but especially loves the band KISS! He told me the other day he’s going to be their drummer one day. This was during one of our traditional afternoons of jamming out to Youtube videos while the kids "played" along with their toy instruments. I will say the kid can keep a beat! He has a big personality and even bigger dreams! Brayden loves all sports and in his words “I’m really good at them!” He tells you like it is….a lot like his dad and Grandpa Rick! He can be stubborn at times and when he sets his mind to something there is not stopping him. It’s easy to write about all of the things I love about Brayden. I’m finding it difficult to write his current story. To begin with, Brayden has had an incredible summer. He has kept busy playing his second year of t-ball and up at the pool taking his second year of swimming lessons. Grandma and Grandpa Christianson spoiled him with a few weekends out at the camper on Devils Lake fishing (Grandpa Rick is sure proud of the fisherman he’s become.) His dad Chad, mom Lindsey, brother Luke, and sister Aveerie made a weekend trip to Minneapolis to check out a Twins game. Meeting TC Bear was the best part of his first trip to Target field. Along with playing any kind of ball in the yard with Uncle Bryan, weekend trips to Fargo to visit Aunt Jenny and Boyfriend Brian (Brayden loves his yearly trip to Ribfest), and chasing his 2-year-old sister Emily around the park ,Brayden's been on the go. Before school started, Brayden was lucky enough to go on a mini vacation with his Grandma Janet, mom Kasey, brothers Nathan & Zaedyn, and sister Jaelyn. He was so excited to tell me that he stayed in four hotels, drove go karts, went to Storybook Land, and swimming!
On Sunday August 20, I was home in Carrington, ND to spend the day with my nephew and nieces. The kids came over to my parents’ house to spend some time with Aunt Jenny. Brayden wasn’t quite himself this day. Chad and Lindsey said he had been complaining most of the day that his arm was really hurting. He had been resting most of the morning and had taken some medicine to help with his discomfort. I felt his right bicep area and it was as if a golf ball was lodged inside his little arm. Grandma and Grandpa both checked it out as well when they returned home from the camper and we all agreed that he should be checked out in the clinic in the morning. Grandpa Rick was concerned that we sure take him to the ER that night but we figured it was most likely just a muscular issue. Most of the afternoon was spent relaxing on the couch with Grandpa’s ice pack on his arm. Brayden felt pretty special that he got to use Grandpa's special ice pack.
On Monday August 21, Brayden had an appointment at the clinic in Carrington with Mary, Hoff PA-C. They performed right elbow x-rays and after the appointment Chad was sent home to wait for a phone call with the results. Brayden came over to Grandma and Grandpa’s again to hang out with me. I asked Chad what they had found out and he said they didn’t know yet. There was a spot on the x-rays that looked suspicious and so they had the x-rays sent to Fargo to be read by a radiologist STAT. I told Chad not to worry. I work at Sanford in Fargo as an x-ray technologist and I know often times with pediatric x-rays it is common practice to have them sent to be read by a radiologist before giving official results. Brayden was concerned that he might have to go to a doctor in Fargo.
Not more than an hour later we got the news that the radiologist's report had come back and the results were not good. Brayden appeared to have Ewing’s Sarcoma and would need to be referred to a pediatric specialist in Fargo for further testing. Of course, we were all in shock. You hear the word cancer and you instantly think the worst. At this point, all Chad told Brayden was that he was going to Fargo to see a specialist. He couldn’t wait to tell me that he was coming to “my clinic” to see a doctor for his arm. I'm sure he sensed something more was wrong but he continued to play and be his normal happy self. The following day was his first day of school. His biggest worry should have been what he was going to wear on his first day of first grade. I cried my entire drive back to Fargo that night.
Brayden and the crew made the trip to Fargo on August 23, 2017 to see Dr. Jon Peterson at Sanford Orthopedics. He is an amazing pediatric orthopedic specialist that I am lucky enough to work with. Despite a busy schedule, he agreed to gladly see Brayden on Wednesday afternoon. I seriously cannot thank him enough for this as this helped move his treatment along. Brayden, his dad, mom Kasey, and grandmas had a long day of appointments. After evaluating, Brayden’s x-rays and doing an exam Dr. Peterson made the decision to send him straight to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo to meet with a pediatric oncologist.
Dr. Melanie Chihak was the pediatric oncologist who met with Brayden that afternoon. Mom later told me the story of what happened in the doctor’s office. Dr. Chihak asked if Brayden had heard the “C” word yet and Chad answered “no.” She looked Brayden in the eye and stated “Brayden, you have cancer.” Mom said it was the most heartbreaking moment of her life watching her 6 year-old grandson cling to his dad and sob. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Later Brayden would say “the doctor even cried so it’s ok that I did too.”
The doctor gave them time alone as a family and then came back in and told Brayden “I never lie, I’m going to make you better.” She strongly believes that given Brayden’s overall heatlh, family history, and early detection that we will beat this! Her game plan is to send him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for further testing. From there we will have a better idea of a treatment plan and what kind of cancer we are dealing with for certain.
After leaving the doctor’s office, Brayden wanted to call everyone himself to tell them the news. I'm 32 years old and I don't know if I would have the strength to do that. Here is my 6 year old nephew calling his family to tell them personally that he has cancer. It was his choice where he wanted to go to supper in Fargo. Brayden, Chad, Lindsey, Aveerie, Emily, Grandma Char, Grandma Janet, Kasey, and I all spent the evening at Chucky Cheese eating pizza and playing games. We talked about his cancer, his pain, and Brayden assured me many times “they are going to make him better.” I told him if I could trade places with him I would in a heartbeat. He gave me his classic smile and said “my dad said that too.” He has so much faith for such a little man. When I visited New York City a couple years ago I visited St. Patricks Cathedral and brought Brayden back a small cross made from an olive tree in Bethlehem. He told me he brought it with him that day. He's always found comfort in the smallest tokens. Before we left the restaurant he walked around putting stickers on all of us. I asked him why and he said "you comforted me when I was scared today."
I wish I could shield him from all of the harsh obstacles life is about to throw at him. I guess the Lord has different plans for him. We are putting our faith in God and will never give up hope! Hey Cancer, I think you picked the wrong kid! Brayden’s story is just beginning!