Dear Friend of The Dream Factory,
Hello, I’m Shannon, and I’d like to share our family’s experience with The Dream Factory. The Dream Factory provides an incredible service to children in Manitoba who are battling a life-threatening illness.
... and read on to hear about one of our most "volcanic" dreams yet!
Two years ago, at age 5, our son Finley was diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma, a non-malignant brain tumour. The tumour was creating pressure in Finley’s head, which caused severe headaches, lethargy and hormone disruptions. As this tumour is considered rare, there is no standard treatment for it and approaches vary.
Finley had three brain surgeries in the five months following his diagnosis. He developed several complications from these surgeries, including meningitis and two strokes. For a time, he was unable to move one leg and one arm and lost a lot of his vocabulary. In addition to the surgeries, Finley had countless scans, tests and many, many needles. The needles are the worst for Finley, regardless of how quick or gentle the nurses are.
Finley was accepted into a clinical trial for craniopharyngiomas at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The trial treatment is for proton radiation, a type of radiation not yet available in Canada. This type of radiation reduces the radiation dose to the rest of the brain and is thought to have better outcomes for developing brains.
In January 2015, Finley and I flew to Jacksonville, Florida for proton radiation. Finley received 30 radiation treatments over the course of 6 weeks. For each treatment, Finley was strapped to the treatment table using a mask molded to his face to keep him perfectly still. The cystic portion of the tumour was regularly drained, as it continued to swell from the treatment. Finley and I spent three and a half months in Memphis and Jacksonville for initial trial testing and treatment. It was a long separation for our family, but my daughter and husband were able to visit us in Jacksonville.
We have been told that craniopharyngiomas are slow growing tumours and they are also slow to respond to treatment. A year after completing treatment, Finley’s tumour finally showed signs of shrinking. He’s now had two MRIs in a row that show decreases in the tumour size. We are hopeful that he will eventually be tumour-free. While he will have to take several medications for the rest of his life to replace hormones that his body no longer produces, Finley is feeling great and has recovered all of the energy he lost during treatment. He’s a funny and playful seven-year-old, with a love for jokes, Minecraft, YouTube and his big sister.
When we returned home from radiation, we learned that Finley qualified for a dream from The Dream Factory. The first dream that Finley asked for was “no more needles.” It was so heartbreaking to tell him that this was one of the few things he couldn’t do.
After letting his imagination run wild for a few days, he settled on a dream trip to see volcanos in Hawaii. Thanks to The Dream Factory, our family spent a week in a beautiful beach front hotel on Waikiki Beach. On dream day, we explored Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for an entire day! Finley walked on lava fields, held cooled lava in his hands and walked through a lava tube. We finished the day with a view of glowing red and orange lava at night!
Finley loved floating in the ocean and splashing in the pool with his sister every day of the trip. Finley celebrated his 7th birthday on the trip and The Dream Factory arranged for him to party at a luau! He was called up on stage and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him and he learned how to hula!
Finley’s dream trip provided him a chance to escape the world of medical appointments, treatments and needles. This dream allowed Finley the opportunity to just be a kid again, having fun with his family. It was an incredible adventure that our family will always remember.
Thank you for supporting The Dream Factory and for helping them to give Finley, and other Dream Kids, the chance to experience the magic of a dream come true.