In 11 months, a mother originally from Wantagh who now resides in Putnam County, has had her world turned upside down.
Last August, now 3-and-a-half-year-old Ty Louis Campbell was a seemingly happy, healthy toddler. But he had yet to sleep through the night. He would whine and moan as he lay in his child-size bed, sometimes complaining of a headache. Most of the time his parents could not figure out what was wrong.
Today, that little boy has roughly a dozen scars scattered across his 26-pound body. He has a shunt in his skull and a history of major surgeries accompanied by seemingly endless check-ups, radiation and chemotherapy appointments. His latest challenge is a somewhat insatiable appetite — thanks to steroids that have magnified his hunger and chemo that has dulled his taste buds.
Doctors diagnosed Ty with an extrarenal rhabdoid tumor, a very rare and aggressive cancer, after eight-straight sleepless night and a spontaneous visit to the emergency room.
Ty’s parents, Lou and Cindy Campbell, expected to walk out of the hospital that day with doctors telling them that they were just being over-concerned, crazy parents.
That’s the vibe that they had gotten from their pediatrician in the past. After all, Ty had met every milestone and almost always wore a smile.
Still, the couple felt like they needed some kind of extra assurance that their first-born was fine — so they went with their gut after the string of sleepless nights.
They stayed overnight at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. They slept in the hospital and spent two days waiting for an MRI. Because Ty was so young, he had to go under anesthesia, which required a pediatric specialist.
Lou, 39, and Cindy, 35, could have waited another week or two for an open appointment, but after staying the night, they just wanted to get the MRI over with.
When the time for the test came, the couple started packing their bags. Ty had slept “like a baby” that night in the hospital, Ms. Campbell said, and during the day he was his happy self — jumping on the bed and playing with his toy cars.
“Everyone thought we were crazy, because he was like this totally, healthy kid,” said Ms. Campbell, who grew up in Wantagh under the maiden name Zimba, remembering back to that August day.
Campbell’s husband had his bags in his hands when he saw the neurologist coming and stepped into the hall. He popped his head back in the room and told his wife, “We’ve got to go, it’s bad.”
After the first surgery and an initially incorrect diagnosis, the Campbells, who recently moved from Long Beach to Pawling, N.Y. in Putnam County, learned that Ty’s cancer is one of the most aggressive kinds. Doctors said that the “personality” of a rhabdoid tumor — which was growing off Ty’s skull bone, something they had never seen before — usually means patients have six months to live.
Since that diagnosis 11 months ago, Ty’s cancer has metastasized. He has had two additional tumor resections: One to remove the initial tumor after it grew back and another late last month to remove what Cindy described as two lesions in Ty’s cerebellum.
In the midst of Ty’s cancer fight, the youngster was able to take a trip to Disney World thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation.
While no one has given the Campbells a prognosis in terms of days, months or years, once the cancer has metastasized, it will likely continue to do so. The couple is praying that hopes for their “little fighter” to beat the cancer become reality.
“I’m not unrealistic, I know what we’re dealing with here” said Campbell of Ty who has been unable to walk since November. “He just keeps fighting … Until he stops, we have to try everything we can.”
For more information on Ty’s cancer fight, read his mother’s blog.