GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Every day 46 children are diagnosed with cancer. Hunter Ballard just became one of them.
This Gaston County boy is 15-months old. Earlier this week he was diagnosed with what his uncle describes as, “a horrible rare brain tumor known as ATRT.”
ATRT is short for Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor. It’s a fast-growing cancerous tumor of the brain and spinal cord. Hunter’s mom took him from their home in Ranlo to the hospital in late October, where he stayed for days after being unable to hold food down and was having noticeable mood changes. He had all sorts of testing – an endoscopy, biopsies, even a camera down his throat. Nothing was found. He was sent back home. Things continued to be up-and-down… good days, then bad days… so in the end of November, he went back to Levine Children’s.
This time, doctors put him in ICU and took a CT scan. The scan showed a mass in his brain. An MRI then took a better look… followed by a 4-hour complicated brain surgery to remove a large mass.
“Surgery didn’t go as well as we hoped,” said his uncle, Josh Henderson. “Excessive bleeding required blood transfusions. The tumor was also intertwined in his nerves and the surgeon removed most but not all of the mass. That surgeon told us it was, ‘In the top three of the worst brain tumors’ he has experienced out of 2,000 surgeries for Hunter’s age.”
From there Amy Henderson, Hunter’s mom (who’s in the hospital with him tonight), waited to see what kind of tumor it was, and if it was treatable.
This past Wednesday those results came in.
“It was not the news we wanted to hear,” Amy said. “But despite all these horrible things, we are moving forward with a plan for treatment. Hunter is strong, sweet, happy and loving. We know he can fight through this.”
The plan is this: Stay on the rehab floor of the hospital while recovering from brain surgery. Start chemo in two weeks, and get three 28-day rounds over the next 5-6 months. Afterwards, have a stem cell transplant. Then, re-evaluate where things are and possibly get radiation.
“Just typing you that information is hard enough,” Josh wrote. “The thought of Hunter being subjected to this harsh process brings excessive worry and fear. His mom, Amy, my sister, is a hard worker who has consistently provided for her family, but she’s having to put her job aside now to care for her son. She is a single mom, who loves her three children, and is working to become an EMT. Obviously, that’s now on hold. Family and Hunter’s health comes first.”
Hunter’s older siblings are 10 and 12 years old. Amy is in the hospital alone; family can’t visit or provide relief because of COVID. She is keeping people updated through her Facebook page:
“We are devastated, we are scared, we are worried, we are sad, and we are mad at the world,” she wrote hours after the diagnosis. “It’s going to be a long hard road. This type of tumor has a 40% chance of survival out of only 55 children who have had it under the age of three.”
Josh says Hunter is a happy 1-year-old who loves to dance, hear music, smile at Mickey Mouse and splash in the pool during summer days.
“He’s full of life,” he said. “Incredibly full of energy and a Mama’s Boy… we’re all just praying for him. We want him to beat these odds.”
You guys know we tell The Good, The Bad, and the Always Real. But it’s not always easy to process, hear, or understand.
Please, Amy, keep us updated. Hang in there. Hang in there. Hang in there. Even though no one can be with you in the hospital right now… hopefully you can read some of these comments and feel the extra hugs through your phone.