Moving on after a brain tumor: Fundraiser is Saturday for Peyton Rodgers at Franklin Baptist Church
By Katie Scarvey
Peyton Rodgers was much happier with her second surgery than her first.
The shunt surgery she had in April was certainly less dramatic and scary than the surgery to remove her brain tumor in 2006.
But the big thing for Peyton was that in the most recent surgery, her neurosurgeon left more of her hair. He shaved so little that you’d never even guess she had a surgery.
Peyton wasn’t afraid to make her feelings known about the results.
“Finally, you got it right,” she told her surgeon.
A fourth-grader at Bostian Elementary, Peyton was diagnosed with a ganglioglioma, a rare type of brain tumor, in December 2006.
Her mother, Joy, had noticed at the end of her daughter’s second-grade year that Peyton had a tremor down her right arm.
They went to the pediatrician to check it out ó but Peyton’s arm refused to cooperate that day. No tremors.
But the symptoms persisted at home, and Peyton’s parents continued to worry. When she started third grade, she began playing softball and in the process of learning how to throw, Peyton had to extend her arm and point after releasing the ball.
Her arm was “flapping around,” Joy remembers. So they took Peyton back to the doctor.
By then, the symptoms were worse. She couldn’t carry drinks without spilling them, she couldn’t carry a tray in the cafeteria, she couldn’t use scissors.
Her father, Doug, insisted on an MRI this time.
That’s when the tumor was discovered. In the left hemisphere of Peyton’s brain, it was about the length of a thumb.
The day after the MRI, Peyton was admitted to Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center, and two days after that, the tumor was removed, except for the root, Joy says, which couldn’t safely be taken out.
After the tumor was out, Joy and Doug realized that the daughter they often described as klutzy no longer tripped on her own feet. It became clear to them that the tumor had been affecting her balance.
Peyton’s ganglioglioma is a low-grade tumor, which means it is slow-growing and not aggressive. Often, after such tumors are removed they do not return and need no further treatment. Although it’s possible that Peyton’s tumor will re-grow, her prognosis is good.
Although Peyton’s tumor has shown no signs of re-growth in follow-up MRIs, another serious issue ó hydrocephalus ó developed after the surgery. A tennis-ball-sized pocket of fluid was stretching Peyton’s skull out of shape and causing most of her brain to be shifted to the right side of her head.
And so last month, Peyton went back to Levine Children’s Hospital to get a shunt put in.
A shunt is a mechanical device implanted under the skin that transports, or shunts, excess cerebro-spinal fluid from the brain to a re-absorption site ó in Peyton’s case, the abdominal cavity.
Although you can’t tell it’s there unless you look very closely, Peyton can feel the tube under her skin if she presses her fingers on her neck. It’s an uncomfortable sensation, but she and her parents hope that feeling will disappear with time.
For now, Peyton has to be extra careful not to put herself in any situations that might lead to even minor head trauma. She can’t dive or use the water slide at Franklin Pool anymore.
The precautions are necessary because until the fluid is under control, there is a risk of hemorrhage, Joy explains.
When Peyton pressed her surgeon about going on rides at Carowinds, he told her, “Sure … but if you do, your brain will start to bleed and then you’ll have to come to me for another surgery. The choice is yours.”
That blunt communication style is fine with Joy and Doug, who appreciate their surgeon’s directness and candor.
Joy says that it will take several months to know if Peyton’s shunt is working as it should.
Peyton has already experienced effects from the pressure in her brain, including some short-term memory issues. Her family hopes those will be resolved as the pressure is reduced.
Peyton has asked some tough questions of her parents, such as “Why me?” and “Am I going to die?”
Joy and Doug field the questions directly, honestly. If they don’t know the answer, they tell her they don’t.
Peyton’s little brothers, twins Cade and Carter, aren’t quite sure what to make of all the attention being paid to their sister ó like the NFL referees who came to visit her at Levine Children’s Hospital. Sometimes, they’ve had feelings of jealousy normal to the siblings of seriously ill children.
“I’ve got to get me some surgery,” Cade announced one day to his parents.
Joy and Doug carefully explained that while he might covet the attention that Peyton has received because of her brain tumor, the other things that come along with it aren’t much fun.
The Rodgers family says that Peyton’s school has been good to them, holding several fundraisers for Peyton.
Another fundraiser is also in the works.
On Saturday, May 17, the public is invited to a barbecue chicken fundraiser for Peyton at Franklin Baptist Church, 3810 Hwy 601. Plates will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Funds will go to defray the family’s medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.
Plates are by donation only.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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