Brain Cancer at 4 years old

This is Magnus. He is four years old. He also has a brain tumor.

This story isn’t just Magnus’s story. It’s about his family. It’s about fighting. The fight against cancer is more than just the patient, but their support as well.

Magnus had been sick and throwing up when Sarah, Magnus’ mom, called the family doctor. Sarah told the doctor of his symptoms thinking, “Magnus probably just has the flu, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Bad things happen to other people, right? Everything is fine.” This was just the beginning of a very long and difficult fight.


The doctor told her to take Magnus to Primary Children’s Hospital. After a CT scan they discovered that Magnus had a brain tumor. Sarah burst into tears. She couldn’t believe it. She kept thinking, “How can this be happening? Is this really happening? Am I even awake?”

Life turned upside-down for the Collette family. Everything had been fine and suddenly their youngest of five was now in the hospital awaiting difficult surgery.


The doctors came in and said, “The IV team will be in to place a main line and start steroids for the swelling. Magnus will receive Zantac, be admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), intubated and have an MRI. He will remain heavily sedated and intubated until surgery time on Sunday morning. Do you have any questions?”

Andy and Sarah just glanced at each other in disbelief thinking, “Are you serious?” They were still in shock and disbelief. Magnus looks fine! He is so happy. This can’t be real.

The IV team came to place a line. Magnus was terrified. Just at the sight of the needles he started screaming and shrieking. Sarah’s heart ached for her son. “He’s going to have to get used to that,” she thought.

Sarah and Andy waited for Magnus’ surgery at about 4 AM. Sarah shared, “Around 3 AM the nurse tried to wake him for his Neuro exam and he was furious. He was screaming and kicking at her and telling her to go away. It was hard to watch. Andy finally asked him if he wanted mommy (I was hiding in the corner plugging my ears, trying not to hear him be so upset) and he said yes. So I went and cradled into his bed and snuggled up with him. I sang to him and rubbed his back and he fell back to sleep. I loved that time with him.”

Then the Collete’s just had to wait.

And wait.

After what seemed like eternity, they finally brought their baby back to them. Sarah said on her blog, “It was terribly sad and horrifying to see him in his state when 12 hours before we had thought him a perfectly healthy and happy boy. A boy who was supposed to start preschool in a week, a boy who would have his birthday soon, a boy who loved being the youngest, adored by his siblings, and being spoiled rotten. They wheeled him into his room and got him all set up, connecting him to computers and machines that beeped and blipped and monitored and recorded information.”

After the MRI, the Doctor spoke with Andy and Sarah to explain what would happen during the surgery. “He explained the risks, the side effects that may happen, the worst case scenarios. It was so much, just too much that could go wrong. It was very overwhelming. On the list that may happen was things such as: right sided weakness, swallowing problems so severe that he would need a feeding tube, possibly needing a head drain for the rest of his life, paralysis, mutism, reverting back to acting like an infant, and many other equally horrifying things– including death, of course. He also mentioned that they could be temporary or permanent.  As always, they ask if we have any questions and Andy and I just look at each other with confused looks, wondering if we should have questions after the information given, that our son could be dead sometime in the next few hours.” A miracle occurred for Magnus and his family and the surgery was a success!

Magnus, post-surgery

Magnus, post-surgery

Cancer is a scary journey. Sarah thinks that unless you have experienced it, you really have no idea how it affects individuals and families.

Sarah was lucky to have been referred by a friend to another woman whose son had the same cancer. She was able to speak with her, someone who really understood and could help their family through this fight. Sarah thinks Cancer Spot will be an amazing way to connect with others who understand the fight against cancer. That way they don’t have to feel like they are going through it alone.

Today, Magnus is in remission. He is doing great! He relearned his motor-skills, and successfully completed radiation and therapy. He is a happy, smiling boy who loves coloring and playing with his favorite toy, “Beard Guy.” Magnus just a typical, goofy, silly, 4-year-old boy.

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