Mother's nightmare comes true

Staff writer

Jessica Snyder’s heart leapt into her throat when she heard the news: Her 6-year-old daughter, Deanna, had a brain tumor.

“It was my worst fear,” the Marion mother said as tears rolled down her cheek.

Jessica and Trinity Snyder knew something was wrong with their child in late December, when she came down with flu-like symptoms. They brought her to the doctors who — after they ran all the blood, urine and stool tests — deemed her to be “normal.”

The Snyders sent Deanna back to school, only to pull her out a few days later, on Jan. 12, when she started having balance issues.

“She had a long week and looked exhausted, so we sent her to bed,” Jessica Snyder said. “By the next morning it was obvious that there was a major problem. When she was eating breakfast, we noticed her fine motor skills seemed off, and she was having trouble getting her spoon into her mouth. We weren’t sure she wasn’t just being silly until she got up and staggered around a bit.”

They also noticed her speech was slurred and her eyes were glassy, so they rushed her to the emergency room. They did a CT scan, more blood work, and still everything “looked normal.” But, they could tell something was amiss, and they decided to keep her overnight for observation.

The next day they went to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, where a pediatric neurologist took over her case. She had an MRI and a spinal tap, which gave the doctors the much-needed information to make a diagnosis.

Deanna Snyder has a pontine glioblastoma tumor on her brainstem. Glioblastoma is a highly infiltrative form of brain cancer ranked as grade IV astrocytoma because of its rapid volumetric growth. These tumors tend to infiltrate throughout the area of the brain where the tumor is located, making them more difficult to completely remove surgically. In Deanna’s case, the cancer has progressed to the point that surgery and chemotherapy are no longer options. She is currently undergoing radiation treatments in Wichita.

“They told us this condition is very hard to treat because, even if the treatments are successful, the cancer is likely to come back,” Jessica Snyder said. “The outcome doesn’t look promising. Usually patients with this disease die within 12 months. When they finally diagnosed her she was barely able to walk, her fine motor skills were almost non-existent, and her speech was so slurred we could barely understand what she was saying, without several repetitions.”

After a few days on steroids and radiation therapy, the doctors determined that she was at risk of aspiration and decided to put her on a feeding tube.

“It’s a very scary thing to watch your child go through all that,” Jessica Snyder said. “Everyone said she was normal just a few weeks ago. But, we have seen improvements and that is encouraging.”

Throughout the whole process, Jessica and her husband Trinity have been able to stay with their daughter in Wichita. The Snyders said they were blessed that their workplaces allowed them to have some sick time off — and that they could spend this time with their daughter. Meanwhile, their other three children are staying with friends in Marion, so that they don’t have to make the long commute every day. Others, they said, have brought food, given them money, and dealt with many of their immediate needs.

“This whole thing sucks,” Jessica Snyder said. “But everyone in the community has been wonderful. They make it suck a little bit less. It’s all really overwhelming when you think about it. Saying thank you doesn’t nearly cut it. People in the community have done so much for us. People I don’t even know have come by, asked if we needed anything, or have just outright given me money for anything we needed. I can’t tell you how much that means to us. We have been blessed beyond measure.”

Now, Deanna spends most of her days watching movies and talking with her schoolfriends on her iPad. Jessica Snyder said her daughter has good days and bad days, but that they walk through her treatment with one thing in mind: God is in control.

“If it weren’t for my faith, I wouldn’t be able to cope,” Jessica Snyder said. “I’m really holding on to 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 right now. It says: ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’

“It gives me peace to know that, even though I can’t do anything about her condition, she is in God’s hands and He can do miracles.”

Mail can be sent to Deanna Snyder, Building 4, Room 505, Wesley Medical Center, 550 N. Hillside St., Wichita, KS 67214. To donate, visit the CaringBridge website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/deannasnyder/

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