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Friday, June 17, 2011

Campbell Taft: The Inspiring Story of a Young Cancer Survivor

Campbell Taft: The Inspiring Story of a Young Cancer Survivor:
Tot battles brain cancer 
and “beats it up”
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Stratford, CT – To see the healthy blond-haired lad now, you would never know the challenges he had endured and how close he had come to the unthinkable.

Just shy of this third birthday, Stratford resident Campbell Tate is a brain cancer survivor. In fact, Friday, June 17, the day walkers will go around the clock in the battle against cancer when the 10th annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Stratford gets underway, marks 29 days his disease will be in remission. His mother, Sherry, will lead one of the participating teams, appropriately called Team Campbell, and make a presentation during the event’s opening ceremonies at Bunnell High School Friday evening. She took a moment to speak with Patch about Campbell’s fight and amazing spirit.

“At seven months old, in March 2009, we noticed that Campbell’s eye was twitching slightly,” said Sherry, with regard to how the long trial began. “We went to see an ophthalmologist, who did a basic exam. He suspected Campbell had an eye disorder, that was treatable and he would outgrow.”

At the same time, the specialist, Milford-based Dr. Bacall, said there was a one-percent chance that the eye condition may indicate the presence of a brain tumor and asked the family if they wanted to have an MRI performed, just to rule it out.

“I initially said no, but the doctor insisted, and the MRI was done April 2,” she said. “My husband and I just expected to go out to lunch after, but midway through the process, the team said they needed to do further exploration. We knew something was up.”

It was not until six hours later – an agonizing wait – when a brain surgeon confirmed the presence of a very sizeable brain tumor. Campbell needed surgery very soon and was immediately admitted to the Pediatric I.C.U. at Yale New Haven Hospital. “Here he was among all these sick children and he looked just fine – it was a very surreal situation,” said Sherry.

The tumor was touching both an optic nerve and his pituitary gland, which are both delicate areas. Dozens of doctors and specialists reviewed the case with regard to approaching the surgery, which was scheduled for April 7. The timing gave the family a little time to prepare, which they partly spent just enjoying some togetherness, but also planning logistics in terms of care for Campbell’s older brother, William, who was five at the time.

“We were at the hospital very early, with several friends and family members, the day of the surgery,” Sherry said. “We kissed him and handed him over, which was very hard. Ultimately, and thankfully, Campbell came through ok.”

His recovery occurred over two weeks, but the family learned only 80 percent of the tumor had been removed due to its location. Sadly, in the process, Campbell also lost sight in his left eye. Pathologists recommended leaving the remainder of the tumor alone, and just monitoring it.

Three months later, Campbell had a routine MRI that indicated the tumor had grown back to its initial size and there was now a cyst, loaded with cancer cells, attached to it. He went back for surgery in July and, again, 80 percent of the tumor was removed. However, a program of chemotherapy was also introduced, which took place every week for the next two years. During that long period, Campbell had three more surgeries, related to complications that included fluid in the cranium and infections of a central chemo line.

“He just completed his last chemo session three weeks ago and his cancer is in remission,” said Sherry. “Now he walks around so proudly saying, ‘I beat up cancer.’ He’s stronger than anyone I know and certainly stronger than me. He amazes me.”

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