When Oakley Hurst first showed symptoms of what appeared to be the flu, his parents, Marcus and Stacy, didn’t think too much of it – it was flu season, after all. But Oakley’s symptoms didn’t let up. “He had a really bad headache and nothing we did made it go away,” Stacy said.
Stacy suspected that Oakley was dehydrated and took him to the local hospital, where they learned Oakley had bleeding on the brain. Within minutes, they were on their way to Children’s of Alabama, where Oakley was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor. “The MRI revealed the tumor was sitting where your first and second ventricles flow into the third,” Stacy said. “It was the size of an orange and it was causing blood to build up.”
That night, Oakley endured his first of three surgeries in which the surgeon inserted a drain to allow the fluid to move. The surgery also revealed that the tumor couldn’t be removed. “It was too close to his optic nerve, so they were afraid if they did anything they could hurt his nerve,” Stacy said.
Just a few days later, Oakley had a second drain inserted, and then a third surgery to insert a shunt to help relieve pressure. “Oakley sustained so much within just a few days,” Stacy said. “All of the surgeries went great, but soon after the biopsy revealed what we didn’t want to hear. It was cancer. Thankfully, we were referred to see Dr. Friedman.”
Dr. Gregory Friedman, a pediatric hematology/oncologist at Children’s who specializes in pediatric neuro-oncology, met with Oakley and explained that Oakley could benefit from a particular chemotherapy used to treat skin cancer. “Dr. Friedman explained that Oakley’s particular kind of brain tumor was responding well to that treatment,” Stacy said. “Oakley decided he wanted to try it.”
Oakley started treatment, but he and his family were told not to expect any changes for at least six months. “They said as long as the tumor stayed the same size it was fine, but that it wouldn’t shrink for a while,” Stacy said. “We went back two months later for an MRI and it already started shrinking.”
Every MRI has continued to reveal Oakley’s tumor shrinking. The treatment has worked so well that he’s back in school and is cleared to run cross country. “Children’s has been absolutely amazing,” Stacy said. “I just can’t say enough about how good Children’s has been to us. I think God placed us there for a reason.”
In addition to being appreciative of Children’s, Stacy is grateful for how the experience has impacted Oakley. “He’s such a strong young man,” she said. “He’s wise beyond his years, and because of his experience, he wants to go into the medical field. This whole experience has really changed his whole life and he wants to use this to help other people.”