When a Parent is Fighting Cancer
- A mother of two from Bootle, England, is facing an uncertain future after she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor last year.
- After feeling unwell for weeks at the end of last year, Katie Flynn, 34, finally got her answer: she was diagnosed with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT), which is a rare and aggressive malignant (cancerous) brain tumor of the central nervous system.
- When a parent is fighting cancer, it is something that takes a toll on both the parent and the children. The parent, like in Katie’s case, is trying, to the best of their ability, to keep everything normal; no parent wants their children to see them struggle. This is exactly what Katie is doing for her two children, Daisy, 9, and Alfie, 8, amid her brain tumor battle.
In 2021, Katie Flynn, 34, began to suffer from an array of strange symptoms; she was experiencing the “pins and needles” sensation in her arms and legs, as well as fatigue. She visited multiple hospitals to see different doctors, all of whom struggled to figure out what was wrong with Katie.Read More
According to the National Cancer Institute, ATRTs in both children and adults are very rare; the condition will typically appear in children around the age of 3, but these tumors can occasionally occur in older children. For adults to develop ATRTs is even more rare. In fact, there have only been 50 reported cases of adults with ATRTs. There are an estimated 596 people living with ATRTs in the United States.
Katie’s family friend Nicola Bailey tells the Liverpool Echo that Katie had a “far more chance of winning the lottery than being diagnosed with this, especially as an adult.”
The Importance of a Support System During a Cancer Battle
Nicola says that since Katie’s diagnosis, “Friends and family are having to rally around them and the kids. Her partner is a taxi driver, but she’s needing 24-hour care when she’s out of the hospital.”
She says that since her diagnosis, Katie’s condition has declined quickly, adding: “She’s lost a lot of her ability to walk or do simple tasks independently, so as her partner is self-employed and she’s out of work, he’s had to take time off work.”
“Family (is) looking out for her as well,” Nicola says, “so if they’re both not working, it’s just become a bit of a struggle.”
It is incredibly important for patients to have a strong support system when going through what is most likely one of the hardest times of their lives, and just being there can do wonders. This is something Katie can surely attest to.
Illness, including cancer, is also an experience that can surely take an emotional toll on both the patient and the spouse, as well as their relationship.
This is something actress and melanoma survivor Jill Kargman can attest to as cancer was a true test of her relationship’s strength. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Kargman says the disease “is a great way to find out if you’re with the love of your life or a shithead.”
“I think it presses the fast-forward button on getting to the bottom of that answer, because a lot of people in middle age are kind of at a crossroads, waiting for their kids to fly the coop,” Kargman says. “I think if you’re with someone who is not supportive and kind of emotionally checked out or doesn’t tell you you’re still beautiful with that, this might not be your person.”
When a Parent is Fighting Cancer
When a parent is fighting cancer, it is something that takes a toll on both the parent and the children. The parent, like in Katie’s case, is trying, to the best of their ability, to keep everything normal; no parent wants their children to see them struggle.
This is exactly what Katie is doing for her two children, Daisy, 9, and Alfie, 8, amid her brain tumor battle.
“She’s changing and she’s trying to keep everything normal for her kids but they can see differences in her. She’s trying to keep everything the same, she wants them in a routine,” Nicola says.
For a child, it can be extremely hard to watch a parent, a person you care so deeply for, go through such a difficult situation. For Katie, she is trying to keep everything normal for the sake of her children.
“She’s still not lost her sense of humor,” Nicola says. “We’ve still been laughing every single day. People look for humor in a time like this; it’s the only way you can make things just about bearable.”
ATRT Brain Tumor Treatment
If possible, the first treatment for an ATRT is surgery, according to NCI. The goal of surgery is to obtain tissue to determine the tumor type and to remove as much tumor as possible without causing more symptoms for the person. This is exactly what Katie is about to go through.
Her prognosis remains unclear, but she is having surgery later this week. The surgery will last about 10 hours and the goal is to remove about 90% of the tumor.
Once this is done, Nicola says that Katie will go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, “then they’ll go from there.”
“But because it’s such a rapidly growing tumor, nobody knows what way it’s going to go until she’s recovered and they can go forward with other treatment,” she adds.
“We still don’t know; they couldn’t give her a prognosis because they’ve never treated this tumor before, they have no other case to go off.” (Katie is the first adult at the hospital where she is getting treated to be diagnosed with ATRT.)
“She’s kind of paving the way.”