COLUMBIA — Columbia second-grader Aiden Taylor, who had surgery for a brain tumor late last month, has been transferred for treatment to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
His parents, Josh and Lisa Taylor, asked their oncologist for a referral to St. Jude, where around 90 percent of patients participate in clinical trials. The family left for Memphis on Tuesday.
His parents say he has improved "by leaps and bounds" since brain and spine surgery the last week of January. Because he is still unable to walk or speak, they use their own "sign language" to communicate with Aiden.
According to his mother, he works with a speech therapist and physical therapist every day.
"He still can't speak," she said, "but he is laughing more and smiling more."
He no longer relies on a feeding tube for nutrition, she said. "He eats all the time, and he eats everything."
The Taylors discovered less than a month ago that their 8-year-old son had tumors on his brain and spine. Then they learned the tumors on his spine, which are causing most of his pain, are inoperable.
Shortly after that, they were told that Aiden has a rare and aggressive form of cancer. There was little that doctors in Columbia could do.
The move to Memphis will be a new chapter for the Taylors. They are uncertain what type of treatment he'll receive in the long run, but they do know he will undergo six weeks of radiation.
"I'm excited to get there and for him to get treatment that will actually make him feel better," Lisa Taylor said.
St. Jude is the only cancer research center in the country devoted entirely to children. It provides services to families at no cost. In order to be treated at their facility, children must be diagnosed and referred by a physician and they must be eligible for an ongoing treatment study.
Lisa Taylor, and her older son Braxten, are relocating to Memphis for the duration of Aiden's treatment. Josh Taylor will commute back and forth so that he can still work. St. Jude offers short- and long-term lodging for families who live more than 35 miles from their facilities.
The family continues to keep a positive attitude, even though they know Aiden's journey is far from over.
"Every kid is different," his father said, "it could be three months or it could six months. I just want him to get better."
His mother said that she is looking forward to being in a supportive environment. At St. Jude, she will be able to talk with families who have had similar experiences.
"I think it will be really good for Aiden to interact with other kids who are going through the same thing," she said.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.