Ontario 4-year-old diagnosed with brain tumour after doctors believed it was a virus
An Ontario mother and father say their four-year-old was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour after doctors believed his symptoms were a flu-like virus for months.
Gladys Mears and Scott Gillespie said their son, Landon, “loves life.”
"He dances and he sings and he's just so funny," said Mears. But now she and his dad are at Landon's bedside as he fights for his life.
In June their second youngest of six children started getting really sick.
"He would vomit first thing in the morning sometimes, or randomly throughout the day, but he would get sick and then be fine after," explained Mears, "seemed kind of like a flu or like a viral thing."
They took him for countless tests and to see doctors, but everything kept coming back normal. Then, a couple months ago he started getting unsteady on his feet.
"He can barely walk," said Gillespie describing a visit to see his mom, "(Landon's) like 'my legs are broken.' And that was the day we brought him in."
Their family is from Bowmanville but travelled to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children to get Landon checked. Mears told CTV News that again a doctor believed everything was normal. They were getting ready to leave the hospital when a nurse saw the four-year-old walking. She told them to stay put and he had an MRI done, which found a large tumour was growing on his brain.
"She saved his life," said Gillespie, "they said that if he didn't come in, it was so bad that (at some point) if he fell asleep he wouldn't have woken up."
Landon was immediately taken for surgery where 98 per cent of the tumour was removed and Mears says his son is now fighting stage three cancer.
"It felt like a nightmare," said Mears, "no parent should struggle for so long to figure out what's wrong with their child for such horrible news."
The parents wanted to come forward to share their story so people with similar symptoms are aware.
Dr. Donna Johnston is the chief of hematology and oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). She says most of the time vomiting in children is some sort of bug but persistent early morning vomiting and headaches over days and weeks are symptoms of brain tumours.
"The pressure builds up inside and that's worsened when you're lying down all night so that's why you can have vomiting and headaches first thing in the morning," she told CTV News Toronto in an interview.
But there are other symptoms as well such as balance issues and it can impact nerves.
"The most common one you see is with the eye where the eye is sort of deviating and not looking normal," explained Johnston.
Landon is still recovering from surgery but his doctors want him to have proton radiation next.
"It's a chemo resistant tumour so what they have is targeted radiation directly to the area where the tumour is," said Mears.
That type of radiation is not available in Canada yet, so Landon will have to travel to the U.S. to get it.
Dr. Johnston said at CHEO they send anywhere from five to 10 patients each year to have proton radiation and it's covered by OHIP.
"We're really fortunate that OHIP covers the cost of having all the therapy there," she said, "obviously it's a challenge for a family because they're not at home, they have to go to the U.S."
But she said proton radiation is coming to Canada.
"It's approved and it's going to Toronto that's where it's going to be," said Dr. Johnston, "it will be within the next few years."
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