Most eighth graders’ days are filled with school, Facebook and friends but for 13-year-old Tristan Reese, his days are filled with cancer treatments, IVs and feeling down right crappy.
On September 17, 2013, Reese was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, his journey began a month earlier.
In August, Reese, his dad Brent, mom Rachael and his three brothers were headed to Disneyland to enjoy one last trip before the end of summer.
Tristan was just not feeling very well and his parents were concerned, so they stopped in Oregon to have him checked out.
“Tristan got a swollen lymph node on his neck and started not feeling well,” Rachael said. “We took him to the ER in Oregon and they gave him antibiotics.”
After they returned home, Tristan still didn’t feel well so his parents took him to see his pediatrician.
“He just didn’t feel better and our pediatrician thought he had mono,” Rachael explained. “He did a chest x-ray and he said Tristan needed to go to Children’s Hospital right now.” The doctor also, had concerns about Tristan’s blood counts.
Like any mother would, Rachael Googled WebMD to see what these symptoms could mean. Before she even got to the hospital, she knew what the doctors were going to say.
“By the time I got to Children’s I had a pretty good idea of what they were going to tell us,” Rachael said. “Previously, if you’d asked me what I would do if my child was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, I would have thought that I would break down and lose my mind. But we didn’t, we went into survival mode. We started asking, ‘What do I have to do to get my kid better?’”
Tristan’s reaction a little different.
“(I was) shocked and scared...like how could this happen to ME and how did it happen,” he said.
Cancer treatments are not cheap and Tristan’s late stage cancer means aggressive treatments. Right now he is in the process of receiving chemo treatments and then shots after each treatment to help his white blood cell count.
The shots alone are over $10,000 each. That’s four zeros.
“He has to have five rounds of high dose chemo. The chemo he is getting doesn’t get any higher dosage than what he’s receiving. It attacks every good cell while it’s attacking his bad cells,” Rachael explained. “After chemo there’s a shot that is intended to raise your white blood cell level. The cost is $10,571 for each and each shot is only 6 mg.”
The Reeses do have insurance but, of course, it won’t cover all of Tristan’s medical care.
Friends and family have stepped up to help out by bringing meals and starting a website where anyone can donate money to help.
“His friends are great. They come over for game night. We have gotten so many meals that we have leftover night with his friends and he has been able to keep in touch with his social network,” Rachael said. “He just finished his second cycle and has three more rounds to go. After the chemo he starts radiation which is two to four months.”
Because of his low resistance to infection, Tristan is unable to go to school and the doctors say he will be out all of his eighth grade year at Cavelero Mid High School.
“This school district has a program called the Home Hospital Program where a tutor comes to your house and communicates with your teachers. They bring you your work and help you continue with your school work,” Rachael explained. “Cavelero has been so great. Education is so important to me so I asked how we can keep him up on everything. They told me not to worry about that. The counselor calls me every week. They are trying to find me more help in other ways.”
Tristan hates spending time in the hospital but is enjoying seeing his relatives.
The best part is, “seeing family a lot and receiving gifts,” he said. He is also looking forward to being back at Cavelero and receiving his “wish” from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is a trip to the Caribbean.
He is looking forward to, “getting rid of cancer so I can go back to school. And the trip to Jamaica!”
Tristan’s middle name is Marley and his favorite quote is by Bob Marley, which his mom shares on her blog.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
The future is looking bright for Tristan and his fight against cancer.
“We are feeling good about Tristan’s future. The oncologist says the prognosis is really good,” Rachael said. “If you had to have cancer you would want to have Hodgkin’s because they can treat it so successfully. It is unfortunate that he has to go through what he has to go through though. He’s a trooper.”
Rachael shared the following about Tristan on her blog, which explains his laid back and sincere attitude, especially throughout this unexpected and often painful ordeal.
“My son is the most unselfish and giving kid that I have ever known. If he has a sandwich, he’s going to offer you half. If he has money in his pocket, he will split it up and spend a little on himself, and the rest on his little brothers. He was born with an incredible gift of empathy. I remember a specific instance, when Tristan was about 5-years-old. His older brother, Aidan, was being disciplined for something or the other, and Tristan asked if he could take Aidan’s punishment for him. We jokingly have called him “Tristan Jesus Reese.”
As soon as they received the news of Tristan’s cancer and all that he would have to go through for the next year, Brent and Rachael made the changes necessary to be by his side through his ordeal.
“I’m a student and I work full time. As soon as we got the diagnoses I had to drop out of school and I’m on family medical leave for 12 weeks,” Rachael said.
As soon as her leave is up, Brent will take his 12 weeks of leave as well.
“After that, we’ll see,” she said.
For now, Tristan and his family are fighting this battle together. The great news is that Tristan’s future is looking positive. The bad news is that medical expenses will need to be paid. Any help you can give the Reese family would be greatly appreciated.
You can donate by going online to indiegogo.com/projects/tristan-s-journey.