Local Child Fighting Brain Tumor

Published 08/19 2014 05:44PM

Updated 08/19 2014 06:13PM

HOLLIDAYSBURG - Doctors diagnosed about 3,000 kids  with a primary brain tumor, last year. One of them , a 9-year-old Hollidaysburg boy had surgery to remove a mass the size of a golf ball. His mother says he may be one of the lucky ones.

If you look closely at the right side of Isaac Bennett's head, you can see the right angle scar left by major brain surgery. Fortunately, the operation didn't slow down the way his  brain works.

"My whole family's competitive at Monopoly," he says as he gets the game ready. "Sometimes we scream and go and say I had that property no, no," he explains.

His mother Tabitha Shimer says game and movie times have become even more important for the family since Isaac's diagnosis .

"Just being home and everybody together means so much more,"  she says.

Isaac has  a grade 2 pilomixoid astrocytoma, a non-cancerous, but aggressive tumor that can still grow, but won't spread outside the brain.

"It's definitely been a character builder," Tabitha says, ruefully.  "He had hemi-paralysis after the surgery so he was paralyzed half way down his body, his left hand, his left leg, everything started over again, his smile everything had changed."

Everything has come back fully, except for his left hand, which is improving, thanks in part to video games and Monopoly, as well as physical and occupational therapy.  "I'm still working on the grab and I  can do a lot of stuff, " Isaac says, flexing his hand.

He's  still undergoing chemotherapy,  and may face radiation when he's older.

A seizure  prompted doctors to do the scan that found the tumor.  Before the diagnosis, Isaac had been having headaches, something his parents and doctor attributed to migraines, but in his case they were a symptom of  brain tumor.

At Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Altoona, Dr. Nader Younes says, "headache is very common, not everybody who has a headache has  a brain tumor, but there is usually a red flag, headache at night, waking up the child is a concern."

Dr.  Younes says headache with vomiting, balance problems and dizziness are other symptoms of a brain tumor in a child. However, he says he and his partners rarely make that diagnosis.  They've seen 6 or 7 cases during his 20 years in Altoona. 

Tabitha knows of 5  kids in neighboring counties with brain tumors.  She's started the Turtle Foundation to help them deal with some of the challenges Isaac has faced.  She says items like electric blankets, stuffed animals to use instead of medical pillows, and tablets to keep young minds occupied while waiting for medical appointments have been on her list.

The Turtle Foundation is holding a fundraiser Saturday August 23, starting at 4 p.m. at the Swiss Rifle Club in Altoona to raise money for the effort.

For more information, go to theturtlefoundation.com .

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