CORNER BROOK — It’s been one long, tough road for Steven Kendell and his family already, but they are only halfway through his main battle against cancer.
Last May, the Grade 6 student at St. Gerard’s Elementary School was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive, cancerous brain tumour.
One week later, the 11-year-old had surgery which removed 100 per cent of the malignant growth at the base of his brain, and he’s been on the path to recovery ever since.
His overall prognosis is good, but it has not been an easy time and it will be a while before he can think about returning to his Cubs group or his dance and youth theatre classes.
Steven has only been back home in Corner Brook for a total of about three weeks since his surgery.
He began the first of 32 radiation sessions last June and will have to continue taking chemotherapy treatments until July. Last summer, he had to spend another nine or 10 days in hospital because of blood clots in his lungs.
He’s had 10 blood transfusions and, more recently, had to be admitted after doctors found spots of pneumonia on his lungs.
The next time he will be able to return to Corner Brook will be this spring.
Even after the chemotherapy ends later this year, Steven will have to deal with some of the side effects of the brain surgery. Five days after the procedure, paralysis set in on his right side.
He has since regained some mobility in his right arm and leg, and the hope is he will keep getting stronger in that regard. An inability to fully shut his right eye, which will afflict him for life, should be made virtually unnoticeable with an upcoming surgical procedure.
Fortunately, Steven’s brain is well-developed. A younger person who has had this type of surgery would be more susceptible to experiencing issues with brain development.
Besides the physical toll on Steven’s body and the emotional strain it has caused him and his family, there is also the unexpected financial burden they’re enduring.
Staff and students at Steven’s school recently held a recycling blitz to help the family. It raised an impressive $3,000 in one weekend.
Richard Kendell, Steven’s dad, said the response from the school and the community was overwhelming.
“It’s really hard to accept help from anybody, but the reality is we have to,” said Kendell. “If we don’t, things slip by and eventually it all comes to a head.”
“What they did will help get us caught up and get us back on track. In a couple of months, we will be back in the same situation, but this helps us jump the gap.”
Kendell gave up a truck driving job he had landed just before Steven was diagnosed, and has since taken on a new job at Kent Building Supplies. Doreen Noseworthy, Steven’s mom, has taken time from her job at Western Health and will be with Steven until he comes back home.
Kendell and Noseworthy also have two daughters, including Steven’s twin sister Sarah and 16-year-old Megan.
Everyone’s quality of life has been on hold as they help Steven fight for his.
“It’s been a rough go for everybody, no matter how you cut it,” said Kendell.
Bill Chaisson, the principal of St. Gerard’s, said the school community is an extension of Steven’s family and there was no question students and staff would be there for them at this time.
“We try to teach our kids a lot of things,” said Chaisson. “Academics is the most important, but we also teach them it’s important that we take care of each other. That’s what it is all about and this family needs it. It could be any one of us in the same situation tomorrow.”
Chaisson said he too was taken aback by the response to the fundraiser, which saw staff, students and the general public make cash donations and fill two big recycling trailers to the brim. It was the biggest fundraiser the school has ever done, easily eclipsing the $1,800 it raised to help an orphanage in Haiti after the earthquake that struck that country in 2010.
“I thought, if we could raise $500 or $600, that would be good,” said Chaisson. “After the first day, we had just about $1,000 raised and we knew it was going to be phenomenal.”
While being interviewed for this story, Kendell received a text message from Steven in St. John’s. He had just learned about the final fundraiser tally himself.
“Thank you everyone,” he wrote. “That’s unbelievable.”