The other kids made fun of him. They laughed at Ethan because he was different. Half his face was paralyzed, making him look and act different from the other kids. When they asked him why he had scars all over his head, Ethan replied “I got into a fight with a dinosaur, but I won.” What the other kids didn’t understand was that Ethan was much stronger than they could possibly fathom. At age 2, Ethan was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma, cancer that travels between the brain and the spine. While it can be treated with surgery, chemo, and radiation, which it was for Ethan, it never goes into remission. Due to the serious nature of this type of cancer, Ethan’s family opted for a more aggressive course of treatment. But as with many cancers, the treatment is often as bad or worse than the disease itself. With mom and dad during treatment. Surgery caused the paralysis in his face, and harsh radiation stopped his body from growing, and also caused problems with his hearing, vision, balance, and ability to regulate body temperature.
I spoke with Ethan’s mom, Jennifer, recently to find out how Ethan is doing now, 7 years after his diagnosis. Ethan is now 9 years old, in 3rd grade, and doing well. He’s been taking a growth hormone that has helped his body grow at a relatively normal rate, and it has helped with the other complications as well. Ethan was transferred to a Catholic school, where the kids have been more understanding, and he is thriving academically. As Ethan’s mom described all of Ethan’s medical challenges, I was astounded by the inner strength she portrayed. She said, “we’ve already been through hell and met with the devil, and we’ve been given another chance.”
They realize how fortunate they are that Ethan has survived this journey, and they appreciate each day as a gift. She explained how Ethan has no fear and has stayed positive throughout this whole experience. This lack of fear continues to amaze Jennifer. After all that he’s been through, Ethan is enjoying a happy childhood, and as Jennifer puts it “has a spice for life.” Perhaps that’s what happens when you get into a fight with a dinosaur and win.