Bryce Curry with his parents, Ashleigh Smith and Corey Curry. The family is selling Batman necklaces and decals to defray medical expenses.
For young Bryce Curry, his family initially mistook early symptoms of a serious illness as the “terrible twos.”
“He was very clumsy, and didn’t feel pain like he should,” his grandmother Tonia Unterbrink said.
To be safe, he was checked out by a pediatrician, starting a long and challenging journey for Bryce and his family.
Last June, it was discovered Bryce, who lives in Gillespie, had developed a brain tumor as a result of having a form of cancer known as anaplastic medulloblastoma.
“I remember what I was doing when I got the call,” Unterbrink said. “I was at Grant’s Farm with my other son, Clye, and other two grandbabies. Bryce’s father called me. He was upset and told me that Bryce had a brain tumor and was being flown to St. John’s. I began crying hysterically.”
To assist with the medical costs, the 5-year-old’s family is selling Batman (his hero) necklaces for $15. Decals will be sold $10 for a 5X7; $15 for 8X5; and $20 for 11X14.
Children with medulloblastoma form tumors in the cerebellum, which affects balance, movement and posture. About 70 percent of these tumors are diagnosed in children under the age of 10, and one in five childhood brain tumors are medulloblastoma.
It sometimes can be difficult to diagnose without knowing what to look for.
“Bryce has always had some sort of problem that manifested when he was between the ages of 2 and 3,” Unterbrink said. “What he has is nothing you can test for. If he carried the MIC gene, his disease would be considered untreatable.”
His parents, Ashleigh Smith and Corey Curry, initially were told he had autism and ADHD, then Asperger’s syndrome. This past June, after being treated for sinusitis for several months, his pediatrician sent Bryce to St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill., for additional testing. The radiologist called in a neurologist and oncologist to look at Bryce’s scans.
Following the diagnosis, Bryce immediately underwent six-hour surgery to have the tumor removed.
“He’s a very rare child,” Unterbrink said. “Normally, it is found in the spine, but his scans came back clear. That is luck on our side.”
Although it was not detected in the spine, his team of doctors is choosing to be safe, not sorry. Bryce is looking at six weeks of chemo (as well as oral chemo). After the six weeks, he will have a three-week break before resuming treatments. The treatments he will take will have long-term effects on him.
“He will probably never have hair due to the amount of radiation and chemo he will receive,” his grandmother said. “His spine will stop growing as he gets closer to puberty and he will have a learning disability. There’s also a good possibility that he will be deaf.”
In addition to these effects, Bryce will have to learn how to walk and do daily activities again, and will not have much of an immune system.
On top of the emotional toll, the medical expenses prove to be a serious hardship for the family. His mother also will have to remodel her entire house to accommodate his needs.
But through it all, the family has rallied behind Bryce, and the youngster has proven he doesn’t easily give up.
“(We are hoping) he will be able to be treated as an outpatient basis at St John’s in Springfield,” Unterbrink said.
The family says it has faith Bryce will pull through, and he is strong — Batman strong.
For more information and where to donate, contact Tonia Unterbrink via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.