Why I Walk | Connor

In the fall of 2015, our 13 year old son Connor started getting headaches from being in the sun too long. He said it was too bright out. He then started getting severe morning headaches when he woke up in the morning. So severe that he would vomit. They would subside fairly quickly, but would happen a few times a week. So we took him to see his Mayo Clinic family doctor to get checked out. His blood work came back good…all tests showed no illness affecting him. But his headaches persisted. So knowing that Connor wore glasses when he was young to correct a lazy eye, we thought that maybe he was having vision problems that caused his headaches. So on Tuesday, November 24, Connor had an eye checkup at Mayo Clinic. While testing Connor, the chief resident noticed something and went and got the department head. He came in and checked Connor’s eyes. The two doctors excused themselves and went back into their offices. A while later they came back and said that Connor’s optic nerves were swollen which is caused by something putting pressure on them. So they scheduled an MRI for the next day. On Wednesday, November 25, Connor had an MRI at 8:15am. Afterwards, we went home and then to the grocery store to get food for Thanksgiving, which was the next day. While in the checkout lane, we got a call from Mayo Clinic. They told us to go to the ER immediately with Connor. They found something in the MRI scans. We then learned at the ER that Connor had an egg sized tumor of the in the back of his brain…medulloblastoma brain cancer. He was admitted right away to the PICU to be monitored. We spent Thanksgiving in the PICU. The day after Thanksgiving, Connor had a 6 hour brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. He came out of surgery in a zombie like state, which was normal for such a major brain surgery. He was able to walk and talk, so that was good. He also had a lumbar puncture to check for cancer cells in his spine. Fortunately, that test came back negative. 

After a month to recover, Connor then had a port surgically embedded in his chest on Christmas Eve. The port is used to make it easier for blood tests and chemo treatments…saving him from getting IVs placed in his arms every time.

In late December, Connor started proton beam radiation treatments at the Jacobson Building of Mayo Clinic every day, Monday through Friday, for 6 weeks. He also started chemo treatments then as well. On February 8th, 2016, Connor rang the bell to signify completion of radiation.

Connor spent the next year with a regimen of chemo treatments. He went bald a couple of times, was tutored at home for school, but never lost hope. He never complained once during all of his cancer journey. He just knew he had to do it to survive. On January 19, 2017, he had his final chemo treatment…a day to celebrate! In May 2017, our family was able to join Connor on his Make-A-Wish trip to Australia. He loves kangaroos and wanted to see them in their native land. It was an awesome trip that he so well deserved!

Connor has had quarterly MRI scans to check for cancer recurrence and has been NED (no evidence of disease) ever since. Connor has given back to those who have helped him in his cancer journey by being honorary chairs for the Olmsted County Relay for Life, The Brighter Tomorrows “Go For The Gold” event, the Hyundai “Hope on Wheels” initiative, and numerous “Cabin Fever” cancer events.

This May, Connor graduated high school in the top 8% of his class (#35 of 409 students)…a great accomplishment. He did his senior year of high school in the Post Secondary Program at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) earning college credits as well. He plans on attending RCTC again next fall (Health Sciences field). He still wants to give back to those who helped him during his cancer journey.