Although Brendan and his parents, Kathy and Travis Robinson, are now living in Colorado Springs, CO, they have remained in the thoughts of their friends and family in the valley – particularly Brendan’s grandmothers Mary Towne and Connie Kmec. Nine years ago, when Brendan was first diagnosed with brain cancer, family and friends rallied to raise money to help the family with expenses. Early this summer, when Brendan was diagnosed with what doctors now believe is a rare recurrence of the same cancer they had believed was eradicated almost a decade ago, friends and former classmates of Kathy and Travis, Nicole and Jeremy Crafts, were eager to help again. “Everyone here feels kind of helpless,” said Nicole Crafts. “We can’t bring meals by.”
Crafts and other friends of the Robinsons decided to raise money. They started by placing donation cans around at local businesses, and began planning the benefit that took place Wednesday evening. “We didn’t want to do a spaghetti fundraiser in the middle of the summer, but we were talking with Steve (Butler) and Bev (Lemaire), and he offered the use of the bowling alley.”
The money raised will help the family with the tremendous expenses they’ll face as Brendan undergoes treatment for the second time. Although the Robinsons have insurance, some expenses – like travel between Colorado Springs and Denver Children’s Hospital – aren’t covered. And the family, which also includes Brendan’s younger brothers Alex and Dakota, and his baby sister Callie, lives on a shoestring budget. Travis Robinson was medically retired from the Army because of seizures he suffers due to an injury he received while serving in Afghanistan. The couple’s youngest child, Callie, has a growth disorder that, pending test results, doctors believe is Noonan’s Syndrome – a disorder that prevents normal bone growth, but Kathy says Callie’s case doesn’t appear to be life-threatening. And this year the family will educate Alex at home to reduce the risk that he could bring home a virus from school that could infect Brendan, who will have a compromised immune system during his treatment phase. With plenty of work for both parents to do caring for the family, Kathy isn’t able to work outside the home.
Right now, a lot of the Robinsons’ time is split with one parent traveling to Denver, and the other caring for the rest. “We’re frazzled,” says Robinson. “They wouldn’t put this much (strife) in a movie.”
Soon, Brendan’s treatment will require a hospital stay of up to three months, and one parent will have to stay in Denver with Brendan, while the other stays in Colorado Springs.
Brendan was treated for brain cancer when he was four years old. After radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer was considered to be in remission. At the time, doctors told the family that, after five years, there was a good chance that the cancer wouldn’t return.
Then, in late May, after suffering severe headaches, Brendan was diagnosed with another brain tumor. The news was devastating, and doctors initially believed it was radiation-induced glioma, from which there was no hope of survival. After surgery, and before biopsy results, the diagnosis changed again, raising. then dashing the family’s hopes.
Now, however, doctors believe the cancer is a recurrence of the original tumor, and is treatable.
Although it’s better news than the initial diagnosis, Kathy says frankly that Brendan’s outlook is grim.
Brendan is currently undergoing a second cycle of chemotherapy, which has taken more of a physical toll on him thanks to an infection at the site of his most recent surgery, as well as a virus he picked up. “It’s killing him, literally,” says Robinson. “He’s always nauseous and in pain, and we haven’t even started the high dose yet.”
Much of Brendan’s care takes place at home, and Kathy and Travis have to administer injections and IVs. “It requires constant care from both of us, but with our experience as EMTs and Travis’ experience as a medic with the military, we’re comfortable doing that.”
Before Brendan began his latest treatment, the family visited Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, and saw “Men in Black III.” All three are things on Brendan’s “bucket list.”
Robinson says Brendan has always been interested in the outdoors, camping, and national parks. “Rocky Mountain National Park isn’t far from us, and we go there several times a year. We always go in the fall for the elk rut, which is amazing. You can hear them bugling all night long, and watch them come down into the fields to fight over the girls.”
As soon as Brendan is well enough after his treatment, the family hopes to visit more parks that are on his list. “He also wants to see Yosemite National Park and Redwoods National Park,” Robinson says. “That will take time, he won’t be able to travel for quite a while. He’d like to go to Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, but I think he knows that’s out.”
It may seem particularly tragic that a 12-year-old – almost 13 – would have a “bucket list,” but Robinson says his second battle with cancer has focused Brendan on making every day of his life count – no matter how long it is. “And it’s the same for everyone,” she says. “You never know.”
To follow the Robinsons’ story visit their blog at http://www.carepages.com/carepages/BrendanRobinson. Donations can be sent to: Kathy and Travis Robinson, 7438 River Bend Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80911.
“We really do appreciate the support from the valley,” Kathy Robinson says. “We do have a network here, but it takes time to build in a larger community like this.”