OHS senior, Bobcat kicker involved in cancer study

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 23, 2016

Fifteen years ago, “anaplastic oligodendroglioma” was a cluster of words that turned Holley Brundidge’s life upside down.

Dee Brundidge is shown with his sister, Haylee. Courtesy photo

Dee Brundidge is shown with his sister, Haylee.
Courtesy photo

Her then-18-month old, Dee, was diagnosed with the form of brain cancer in 2001.

These tumors can be found anywhere within the cerebral hemisphere of the brain, although the frontal and temporal lobes are the most common locations.

The disease manifested one day in the most horrifying way – when he collapsed in his father’s arms.

“We had gone to visit his grandparents and we were actually about to go to Walmart in Enterprise,” Holley recalled. “I told him it was time to go and he was just staring at me. He collapsed in my husband’s arms. They told us he had a staring seizure. We took him to the hospital in Opp and were later transferred to Southeast in Dothan.”

There, Dee underwent a brain biopsy and was later transferred to Birmingham.

Holley said they wound up doing a surgical procedure in which they removed a portion of Dee’s brain.

A routine check-up when he was 5 brought the Brundidges’ worst fears to light – Dee’s cancer was back.

With that diagnosis came some tough decisions.

The suggested treatment was whole brain radiation, but Holley said there weren’t studies to show what the outcomes were for this, nor did they know what the potential side effects would be.

“He was too little to have brain radiation the first time,” she said. “But we didn’t have any other option when he was 5.”

Additionally, the chemotherapy drug also came with a warning that it could lead to leukemia or lymphoma.

“But we had to do it to have our child,” she said.

Today, Dee is listed as stable.

“They’ve never used the word remission,” Holley said.

She explained that stable means that the tumor is neither growing nor shrinking, there are no new tumors, and the cancer hasn’t spread.

“But he hasn’t had treatment in 10 years,” she said.

Dee is in now a senior at Opp High School. He is the football team’s kicker.

Holley said they are involved in late effect clinical trials to see how the high dose of radiation will affect him.

“Rightfully, we don’t know what to expect,” she said. “We don’t know if he’s going to be able to have kids. They say he could develop cataracts. They check his peripheral vision a lot.

The radiation stunted his growth and he had to take growth hormones. He was also put to sleep every day for numerous days, she said.

He didn’t enter puberty on his own and had to have shots every few weeks to make that happen.

He’s also experienced cognitive delays, which has made academics challenging for him, she said.

“I worry about him in the adult world,” she said. “Will he always have to live at home? Will he be able to live by himself? This is the first year he’s been social. We let him get his driver’s license.”

Holley said Dee was a fast learner before the cancer and the treatment.

“He was walking by age 9 months,” she said.

Holley said she had some advice for parents caring for children with cancer.

“When you hear the word cancer, don’t associate it with death,” she said. “As adults, that’s what we do. There is truly hope. You have to have hope. You have to be strong as a caregiver. It takes a family. Financially, we had no one but our family. Clark Trailer kept my husband’s job for him.

“I knew I wasn’t supposed to question God, but sometimes I wondered how it could happen to my child,” Holley said. “But it helped me and my husband become better people. That’s why we don’t mind helping children. Kids don’t ask for the hand they are dealt no matter how screwed up it is. I know God looks out for us and all I can do is pay it forward. I’m so thankful.”