A family from Big Lake is facing a second round of brain cancer with their youngest son.
When Tristan Rempel had an MRI in January it revealed a tumor in his brain had regrown and measured 1.5 cm and the cancer had spread into his lower spine where there was a three millimeter growth.
The three-year-old had a tumor caused by ependymoma removed in April 2019 and received a cancer-free diagnosis by October of that year.
Everything was going well until he had the MRI and it showed the cancer was back.
This time around his parents Jenn and Matt Rempel decided they along with Tristan’s three siblings would go to Vancouver so the family could all be together.
“Surgery isn’t an option this time because the tumor is in his brain stem and he cannot have radiation again where he had it before because it could kill brain tissue,” Matt told the Tribune.
The Rempels are staying in a one-room suite at Ronald McDonald House where they do school work in the morning and spend the afternoon outside at a park or visiting Science World thanks to the gift of a family pass from an uncle and aunt.
Tristan got the last spot in a clinical trial and will begin the second four-week cycle on Thursday, March 11.
He had surgery on Feb. 5 and more scans and tests in the following days. His first day of chemotherapy was on Feb. 11.
So far, Tristan is doing ‘fantastic’ and has experienced very little discomfort. The Rempels have been told he’s the healthiest stage one trial kid Children’s Hospital has seen.
“He only had a couple of days where he said his tummy hurt,” Jenn said. “It’s amazing and weird — you’d never know he was sick but in the back of our heads we remind ourselves he is sick.”
An MRI at the end of March will determine if the treatments are helping and it is possible Tristan could go through as many as 10 more cycles of treatment.
“They cannot tell us if it’s going to do anything per se, but told us when his type of tumor comes back there is a 90 per cent mortality rate. The trial he is in is for children who have had it come back, ” Matt said, adding they will also make arrangements with Canuck Place for palliative care if it comes to that.
Jenn said the grief comes and goes and some times she has three days in a row filled with tears.
Having the whole family together is better psychologically for them all, Matt added.
Back home the community of Big Lake has rallied for the Rempels.
Local residents have raised $3,597 through a bottle drive, $300 from a raffle and Jenn said Andre Chevigny donated $4,000 through the Avril Chevigny Fund, named for his daughter who died from cancer in 1996 when she was eight years old.
The Rempels said they wanted to send out a huge thank you to everyone who helped them last time and those helping them now.
When asked if they need anything, they both responded ‘a miracle?’
“Everything else takes a back seat,” Matt said.