17 May F*Cancer 2019: : “Fighters” – Noah Markstrom
Welcome to the 2019 F*Cancer Blog – “Fighters”
This is a raw, unedited look in to the lives of those that have been personally affected by cancer. We wanted to be able to use our resources as a platform for individuals to share their take and outlook on a terrible disease. This nine week program will feature a different fighter each Friday leading up to the launch of the 2019 F*Cancer program in June. We stand with all those who have been affected and want to make positive strides to further education, awareness, and support. We are 13 days out from the start of the 2019 F*Cancer program! Stay tuned for updates on where you can find our F*Cancer beer and merchandise to support a great cause! We are pleased to bring you our next fighter’s story Noah Markstrom.
All Smiles, No Complaining
On December 5th of 2017 the Markstrom’s world would be turned upside down. Their bright, fun, energetic 4-year-old Noah was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
In late November of 2017 Noah started not feeling well. His appetite had been declining and he began vomiting in the mornings. Over the course of a few weeks his symptoms persisted. Based on some good advice they decided to take Noah up to Mary Bridge Children’s hospital in Tacoma WA (about an hour from their home). They walked into the Emergency Department on the morning of December 5th. They got Noah right in. Kyle, Noah’s father, stated, “Just minutes after the CT scan the ER Dr delivered to us the news no parents would ever want to hear. Noah has a brain tumor. A large brain tumor near his brain stem at the base of his brain.”
Noah would be admitted to the hospital immediately. The plan was to wait a few days for an opening in the schedule and then Noah would have surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. One of Noah’s trademarks is wiggling his ears. In the days before Noah’s surgery he would wiggle his ears for the Neurosurgeon, and they would jokingly ask the surgeon if Noah would still be able to wiggle his ears after the surgery. He assured them he would do everything he could to make sure the surgery went perfectly so Noah could still wiggle his ears.
Unfortunately, about an hour prior to when Noah was supposed to head to the operating room he started acting strange. He started slurring his words, his face started to droop and within a few minutes he lost consensus. “We had no idea what was happening, and we were terrified. The hospital sent out a page and within a minute there were dozens of Drs, nurses and specialists in Noah’s room diagnosing what was happening. The neurosurgeon came rushing in a couple of minutes later and determined that Noah’s tumor had hemorrhaged, and the blood was putting severe pressure on Noah’s brain. The only solution was to get Noah to the operating room as fast as possible, stop the bleed & remove the tumor as planned.”, Kyle said.
After a 6-hour surgery the neurosurgeon would end up removing 90-95% of the tumor. He would tell the Markstrom family that Noah has what is called Anaplastic Ependymoma. A rare form of brain cancer, with about 200 pediatric cases per year in the United States. The tumor hemorrhaging before the surgery and the trauma of the surgery would take their toll on Noah. There were many, many complications in the weeks after the surgery. Noah had damage to his cranial nerves, which required him to re-learn many things. Walking, talking, using his right arm all had to be relearned.
Noah being the strong mature little boy he is was able to understand that the horribly uncomfortable breathing tube was necessary, and he never once even attempted to mess with it. A miracle really. The staff was all amazed at his maturity and strength. In all Noah would spend just over 7-weeks in the hospital recovering and getting healthy enough to start long course of Radiation and then Chemo.
“After finishing treatment in June of 2018 life would start to return to something that sort of resembled our past normal life. We moved back to our home town. Noah would continue to recover from the original complications from the tumor. And most of the side effects from the radiation and chemo would subside.”, Kyle stated. Noah got scans every 3 months to ensure the cancer was gone. They took family trips enjoyed the summer and in September of 2018 Noah got to start Kindergarten, something he had been looking forward to since before he got sick. However, that would all change again in February of this year.
In early February Noah started to get bad headaches. His health rapidly declined over the course of a few days and his family would end up rushing him to the hospital with that sinking feeling that something was not right. Noah’s Drs determined that his tumor was growing back and cutting off the flow of spinal fluid causing severe pressure on his brain. Noah would again have to have emergency brain surgery. In all Noah would end up having two surgeries to relive the pressure on his brain and another two-week hospital stay. After more testing and scans, the Drs would determine that Noah’s tumor was growing back in the original location but has also spread down his spine and to other areas of his brain. Again, Noah never complained.
“Noah is now done with Radiation and he is getting ready to head to Disney Land for a Make-A-Wish trip. We do not know what is next for Noah’s treatment, but we know whatever it is he will continue forward with his smile and positive attitude.”, Kyle said.
“Noah amazes us and everyone he meets. He is truly a favorite patient of many of the staff at Mary Bridge who have cared for him. It is due to his kind heart and his ever-positive attitude. He always smiles despite the many tough procedures and treatments. His ability to understand the necessity for all his medical treatments is an understanding that is far beyond his years. We could all learn from Noah’s ability to tackle the hard stuff with a smile and without complaining.”