Tina Bosma, a teacher in the Brandon-Evansville School District, happened to be home with her son, Lucas, one day last year in February. Lucas was playing when all of a sudden he said, “Mom, I can’t see.”
Almost immediately, however, he told her, “Nevermind, I can see.”
She said he did that a couple of times that day. Tina thought it was a little weird and pondered that maybe he needed glasses. Her husband, Robert, also a teacher in the B-E School District, wore glasses and she just thought maybe Lucas had his dad’s bad eyes.
After several doctor’s appointments, the family learned it wasn’t his vision after all. Instead, they found out that Lucas, who just turned 8 on July 2, had medulloblastoma, which is the most common type of cancerous brain tumors in children.
He was diagnosed with medulloblastoma on Feb. 21, 2019.
And this year, he is the Relay for Life of Douglas County honorary survivor. Although the event will not take place in person, there will still be a Relay for Life event. It is taking place this Friday, July 10. (See related story.)
Tina and Robert said they are very humbled that Lucas was chosen as this year’s honorary survivor.
“We never dreamed we’d be in the shoes we’re in, but here we are,” said Tina, with Robert adding, “It’s very humbling to have the community support we’ve had.”
They added that if their son’s story can help another family, it is all worth it.
On Monday night, July 6, ribbons and flags were put up for the Paint the Town purple event and Lucas got to hang the first flag up in Brandon. His parents said he is just like any normal 8-year-old in that he is very curious about the whole Relay for Life event, but also excited.
“This is all very new to him,” said Tina.
How the diagnosis came to be
When Tina thought her son needed glasses, she made an appointment to get his eyes checked. Three weeks later, Lucas was at Eye Associates in Alexandria getting his eyes looked at by Dr. John Hoven.
“We weren’t really worried about anything at that point,” said Tina, who also noted that her son has big eyes and they always seemed to be dilated.
Tina learned that her son’s optic nerves were swollen and that her instructions were to call Lucas’ pediatrician and to make sure he got scheduled for a CT scan.
“We weren’t even buckled into the car when I received a call from our pediatrician and we were being told to head over to the hospital to get the CT scan,” Tina recalled.
She was asked if her husband was with her and that if he wasn’t, he needed to be. At that point, she knew it had to be something serious. Robert met her and Lucas at the hospital and her mom went to their house to watch their other son, Archie, who recently just turned 5.
Tina and Robert found out their son had a mass on his brain and that it needed to be looked at further. They were told that Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota was waiting for them to arrive to do the necessary tests on their son.
“Lucas was so sad because the next day was the 100th day of school and there was a celebration and he was going to miss it,” said Tina.
But the family did what they were told, went home packed some clothes and headed down to the cities.
When they arrived, they went to the Children’s Hospital campus that is in Minneapolis, when they actually needed to go to the one in St.Paul. Lucas got to take a ride in the ambulance, finally arriving and checking into the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Paul campus of Children’s Hospital around 2 a.m.
“It was so weird. We were like, we’re here but he’s fine,” said Tina. “We were talking to the doctors asking them if they were sure they had the right people. They told us yes, you need to be here.”
Lucas immediately had an external ventricular drain put into his head because of the extra fluid that was building up, which was the cause of him not being able to see. The shunt, said Tina, was a game changer for the seriousness of what was happening. At that point, they did not know it was cancer.
They thought it was just a mass on his brain.
It’s a tumor
The couple was finally told that it was not a mass, but a tumor, which they were told meant it was cancerous and that their son would be having more surgery.
“That was big,” said Robert. “And that was the longest week of our lives.”
The Bosmas explained that when Lucas was in the PICU, his brother couldn’t come for a visit, which was hard on both the boys. Family members took care of Archie so that both Tina and Robert could be with Lucas.
Robert explained that the doctors did a complete removal of the tumor but that Lucas still needed to have other treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy.
“It’s like removing the palm of your hand, but not knowing if the fingers were still there,” said Robert.
The family spent 22 days at Children’s Hospital before treatment was to begin.
Radiation was up first and would be very targeted treatment on his brain and spine. The Bosmas were very thankful that this type of treatment would be able to be done at Mayo Clinic in Rochester as a new clinic that specializes in this type of treatment had recently opened up there.
Had it not, the family would have had to travel out of state for his treatments.
The protocol included 30 radiation treatments – once a day Monday through Friday – for six weeks. For the treatments, Tina said Lucas had to be sedated, but that he didn’t mind as the doctors and specialists at Mayo were the “world’s greatest people.”
During those six weeks, Tina stayed with Lucas while Robert stayed home with Archie.
“The time apart was very hard,” said Robert. “We talked every morning and night.”
When he was all done with the radiation treatments, Lucas did have some time off before the chemo treatments started. His first chemotherapy appointment was on June 10, 2019.
For his treatments, Lucas took part in a St. Jude’s study, which consisted of four months of chemotherapy. The first eight days of the month, he would receive treatment with the first five days having to be in the hospital. However, his parents said something always seemed to happen, like Lucas would get a cut and end up with an infection, which would put him right back in the hospital. For those four months, he spent much of it either at Children’s in Minneapolis or at St. Cloud Hospital.
He finished his treatments in September of last year and now just goes for checkups every three months. Eventually, it will every six months and then once a year.
Back to normal
When he finally got through all the treatments and the after effects, Tina and Robert said they got their son back. He’s now full of energy, back to showing off his bike riding skills,spending time playing with his little brother and just being a typical boy
Throughout this process, the Bosmas said they have been very thankful and appreciative of all the support they have received – from the fundraisers that were held, to the GoFundMe page to all the support from school staff, parents and friends.
“People are amazing and we are very humbled,” said Tina.
Virtual Event to be held
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Douglas County Relay, Lorene Pitcher, event lead, said the Relay for Life committee needs the public’s help. They want to honor all the previous honorary survivors and are asking for the survivors – or family and friends of those honorary survivors – to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the organization’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DouglasCountyRFL/.
For this year’s Relay for Life, which is slated for Friday, July 10, Pitcher said the committee is working with Livewire Entertainment to broadcast the event over several different social media platforms.Chelsea Lee will once again be the emcee, and Blonde and the Bohunk will be providing the music.
The luminaria event will be held virtually from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Relay for Life committee members are hoping people will light their luminaries at their own homes, down sidewalks and/or around the block. Luminaries are available at Integrity Title, Iverson Insurance and NextStep Homecare.
The public is asked to take videos and/or photos of their luminaries being lit and post them to the Douglas County Relay for Life Facebook page. As a reminder, Pitcher said white bags are in memory of people and brown bags are in honor of people.