Everyday St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helps hundreds of kids suffering from brain cancer. Seventeen year old Tucker Wagner from Lawrence, Kansas, has a brain tumor, but it’s actually benign.
“The tumor I have is called craniopharyngioma. I was diagnosed when i was 15 months,” says Tucker.
“It has always been benign. It’s classified malignant as cancer, because of the morbidity of it, and because of the damage that it does to other structures in the brain. But the cells themselves are not malignant (cancer) cells that have the risk of migrating to other parts of the body or spreading,” explains Jill Wagner, Tucker’s mom.
Throughout his life, Tucker has had 7 surgeries to address the tumor in some way. But one of the surgeries damaged his optic nerve, causing him to go blind when he was just a toddler.
“He had a surgery that had a lot of complications. And that’s where he came out with no vision. Up until he was three and a half, he had functional vision. But after that surgery, he didn’t have any,” says Jill.
Alongside his loss of sight, a stroke during treatment took away the use of his left hand. Over the years Tucker had more health complications due to the active tumor cells. So in 2010, his doctors said, ‘It’s time to go to St. Jude.”
“And that was it! It hasn’t grown since. The tumor is still there, but the opinions of all the doctors is to leave it there. But the cells are not active. The radiation took care of it,” boasts Jill.
“If they wouldn’t have been a part of it, I may not be here. I just love being there. The people there are just amazing. They treat you perfect. They always know what you need. It’s basically my favorite place to be,” says Tucker.
Tucker is now able to live a more normal life, and he is thriving in high school thanks to braille and technology.
“They are able to get information and material to him much more quickly That has allowed him to stay in more mainstream classes,” Jill explains.
“I’m looking forward in my junior and senior year, and possibly after high school (attend) The School of the Blind in Kansas City. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and I am thinking about eventually going to law school,” Tucker shares.
There’s no doubt about it, Tucker’s future is bright thanks to the life change treatment he got at St. Jude. He now goes back to Memphis once a year for a check-up, but as of the Spring of 2011, the tumor cells aren’t active or growing anymore.