Brain tumor no match for Bristol boy

Brain tumor no match for Bristol boy

Troy St. Onge, 7, and his mom, Maria pose in their backyard on Friday.
Photo by Richard W Dionne Jr

Troy St. Onge of Bristol is just like most boys his age.

The 7-year-old likes to play basketball, he teases his older brother, and dreams of one day being a secret government agent where he’ll carry out covert operations, just like they do on his favorite video games. He’s just like any other boy his age, with one exception. He’s undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor and received a proclamation from the governor as an ambassador for the Tomorrow Fund, an organization that provides support to cancer patients and their families.

Although the tumor that doctors removed from Troy’s brain stem was not cancerous, there is a concern that it could return, a situation that haunts his mother, Maria.

“The first thing I thought was that I was going to lose him just like my husband,” Ms. St. Onge said. “When they started talking about brain surgery, I was in shock.”

Four years prior to Troy’s diagnosis, Ms. St. Onge’s husband died from colon cancer. She never expected that any of her four children would suffer a similar fate.

When Troy was 6, he and his friends at Guiteras School were playing and running around like six year olds typically do. Somehow he fell and hit his head.

“I banged myself against a pole,” said Troy.

For a few days after the bump, he complained of headaches and stumbled a lot when he walked, his mother, Maria, recalled.

“I wasn’t a good balancer,” Troy said.

That was on January 7, 2011, Ms. St. Onge recalled. Two days later, he underwent a CAT scan to see if there was a reason for the headaches and dizziness.

“That’s when they found he had hydrocephalus and a brain tumor,” Ms. St. Onge said.

The words “brain tumor” terrified Ms. St. Onge.

The tumor was located on the brain stem and was preventing spinal fluid from circulating. Fluid collected on top of the brain causing the headaches and lack of coordination. Two days after the problem was discovered, Troy underwent surgery to have the tumor removed.

“I was out of my mind,” Ms. St. Onge said. “I couldn’t see him from 8 in the morning until 10 that night.”

While at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the St. Onge’s were “adopted” as a Tomorrow Fund family.

“Once there’s a diagnosis, we immediately made them part of the Tomorrow Fund family,” said Kathy Connolly, development director for the Tomorrow Fund. “We’re there to provide emotional support, as well as some financial help.”

Since his operation last year, Troy missed most of the school year.

“When I fell and went home, a lot of my friends gave me cards and pictures,” Troy said. “That was nice of them.”

This year he’s back in first grade, still on the mend with physical therapy, speech therapy and MRIs to make sure the tumor doesn’t return. If the tumor does return, Ms. St. Onge said that chemotherapy will likely be added. So far, they’ve been lucky and she’s thankful that her youngest child is able to play and dream for the future.

In recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Troy and his mother were invited to attend a reception held at the Statehouse on Wednesday, Sept. 12 as Tomorrow Fund ambassadors. It was the first time that Troy would visit the Statehouse.

“It’s something we’ve done for the past six years or so,”
said Ms. Connolly.

At the reception, the names of cancer survivors and those who are still monitoring their condition, were read and each received a gubernatorial proclamation and medal for their personal ordeal. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month will be further recognized from Sept. 10 through 17, with the Statehouse dome lit up in gold to recognize children such as Troy.

“It’s amazing to see him now,” said Ms. St. Onge. “He’s getting the help he needs.”