These days, when Ethan’s mom cues up her Zumba workout in the living room, she soon finds that she’s not dancing alone.
Ethan, her 5-year-old son, has appeared right next to her in front of the TV screen. He loves learning and repeating the dance steps, he loves the music and he loves his mom. As his mom looks down at Ethan happily stamping and sliding his little feet, she is grateful for many things. But her heart swells with gratitude for two blessings in particular: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and mother’s intuition.
When Ethan was 3 years old, he began vomiting, became lethargic and lost interest in food and play. Doctors chalked it up to allergies or possibly a virus. But when his symptoms failed to subside, his mother, a nurse, took him to the emergency room. There, doctors theorized that Ethan was having migraines.
“When we left the ER, I was in tears,” Ethan’s mom remembers. “I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right. I knew it was something else, that it was serious.”
At her insistence, Ethan’s pediatrician sent him to the local children’s hospital. That’s where a CT scan revealed that Ethan suffered from a rare and dangerous brain tumor known as pineoblastoma.
Ethan was slated for brain surgery. But prior to that date, “people just kept telling us about St. Jude, and St. Jude kept coming up,” recalls his mom.
She didn’t yet know that St. Jude has the largest pediatric brain tumor research program in the country and the world’s best survival rates. She just knew St. Jude was where Ethan needed to be.
At St. Jude, Ethan first underwent chemotherapy to shrink the cancerous tumor in his brain, then surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation therapy and more chemotherapy. Ethan is now cancer-free and returns to St. Jude every three months for checkups.
The lifesaving interventions were hard on Ethan’s body. He was often fatigued and didn’t want to eat. Receiving physical, speech, and occupational therapies at St. Jude helped Ethan recover.
Now, Ethan shows off his line-dancing moves at every opportunity. He also loves to play his toy instruments and practice writing his ABCs, and he is excited about pre-kindergarten this year. And his mom loves it when he joins in on her Zumba routine, when she can bask in just how far he’s come.