Ann Fish special at RockinghamNow
“I have a new barber,” Bryce Cabe said, introducing himself while flashing a mischievous smile and rubbing his hand over his bald head.
Even though the 9-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy treatments resulting in hair loss, Bryce is an inspiration.
He shares the story of his illness with others, hoping to make it easier for other children facing the same struggle.
The precocious little boy and his sisters, Kamryn, 10, and Ashtyn, 6, recently performed with the Boys and Girls Club of Reidsville Singing Company at the Salvation Army’s annual Steak and Burger fundraiser.
Bryce stole the show as he bounced around the stage, still smiling.
Except for his hairless crown, guests would never have guessed that he had been battling stage 4 cancer since September, a rare form called rhabdomyosarsome.
A growing family
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Born on April 6, 2013, Bryce and his older brother, Mason, now 18, were placed in foster care with Shannon and Robert Cabe in Davidson County when Bryce was two.
Two years later, they adopted the two brothers. And in 2019, they adopted the two little girls.
“Bryce was a healthy baby but he had a speech delay,” his mother said. “He prefers to play with tools, hammers and nails rather than a ball anytime. He was always interested in working on things and building things.
She and the children moved to Rockingham County in 2020 and she remarried Charles Truskowski.
Their marriage brought their combined family to 11 children. Shannon also has an eldest daughter, Krystina Odum, 20. Charles has 6-year-old triplets, Addy, Jackie and Brynlea. He also has two sons, Camden, 12, and Noah, 15. Her eldest daughter, Alexis, is 22 years old.
Onset of Bryce’s disease
Last fall, Bryce’s teacher called his mother to report that he had diarrhea. Shannon picked up Bryce from school and gave him stomach medicine, but it didn’t help. So she made a doctor’s appointment and stopped him from going to school the next day. Bryce was on the couch, watching TV while Shannon got ready for the doctor’s visit. But when she came back into the living room, she found him “really confused”. She called her husband to meet them, then rushed Bryce to Annie Penn Hospital.
While waiting to see a doctor, Bryce suffered a seizure and was taken to an examination room. Within two hours, he was transferred to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro where he had two more seizures.
At that time, her mother was hysterical, she said. Doctors felt a mass in Bryce’s abdomen, but their imaging system did not clearly capture a full picture of the tumor.
A hard road
Critically ill, Bryce was transferred to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill and was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit shortly after midnight the same day.
Doctors said the seizures resulted from a tumor pressing on the child’s kidneys and causing his blood pressure to rise.
“They gave him medicine to calm him down,” Shannon said in a recent interview. “He was unconscious for most of it and has no memory of it.”
That night, doctors performed an MRI. Two days later, Bryce’s distraught parents were diagnosed with rhabdomyosarsome, a rare type of cancer that typically attacks the soft tissues of skeletal muscle. The brave little boy had a 40-60% chance of survival, his mother said.
On the third day in the hospital, Bryce started chemo and he remained hospitalized at UNC for 17 days.
“They couldn’t regulate his blood pressure and had problems controlling his bodily functions,” Shannon said, noting that for six weeks Bryce had a urinary catheter until the tumor shrank enough for him. can use the bathroom alone.
While he was in intensive care, his parents decided to tell him he had cancer because they were worried he would hear the medical staff talking about his diagnosis, and they thought it was important that he he hears it from them.
“He cried,” Shannon said. “We explained that it was a fight and that we were all his soldiers. Since then, he has taken it very well. »
“I felt a little mad about the cancer,” Bryce said, adding that the weekly chemotherapy treatments were “awful.” I hate my port and being stuck with a needle.
Although he despises the loss of his hair and sometimes wants to wear a hat to hide his baldness, Bryce often jokes about his condition. When he sees cartoon characters like Caillou, who is also bald, Bryce tells people he looks like him.
Sister, Camryn, sometimes uses her head as a drawing board, applying makeup to create images. Still, Bryce said he sometimes dislikes looking in the mirror.
Since he can no longer attend school in person, a teacher visits Bryce to help him keep up with his classmates in third grade. His favorite subject is mathematics.
Bryce also enjoys riding scooters and watching television. He “loves” baseball and is an honorary member of the UNC men’s baseball team for the next two years.
Step into his room, and you’ll quickly realize from his decor that Bryce adores Baby Yoda, the Star Wars character popular with many youngsters.
“Bryce knows it’s a bad disease and some kids don’t make it,” his mother said. “He is grateful to be as healthy as he is.”
“The boy has a heart the size of Texas. He tells me he probably loves me 500 times a day. When he hears about another child with cancer, he says he’s going to cry.
Although Bryce often doesn’t feel well, he maintains a carefree attitude, his mother noted. Often he just says, “’My noggin’ hurts,’” she says.
Bryce’s current chemo course lasts another eight weeks, requiring the duo to travel to Chapel Hill one or two days a week for blood work and/or blood transfusions.
“When we’re driving, he holds my hand,” Shannon said. Another MRI will be done at the end of this round of chemo to determine how much the tumor has shrunk and how many more radiation treatments will be needed to fight the tumors in Bryce’s lungs.
Throughout it all, the family has been lucky because the kids are on Medicaid, which pays all of Bryce’s medical bills. The family is also receiving assistance from Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas.
When Bryce learned he could request a treat from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, he chose a large pontoon boat with a waterslide.
During the summer, the family frequently visits area lakes such as Lake Reidsville and Buggs Island. And Bryce likes to fish and hunt. Although he hasn’t caught a “big one” yet, he said he was looking forward to the pontoon boat taking him away from shore and can catch this big one from the deck of “Bryce’s Wish”, the name which he chose for the pontoon.
Robert, Bryce’s biological father, has been by his son’s side throughout the process. Bryce visits her every weekend in Thomasville.
Whenever Bryce goes to UNC for treatment, the first person he looks for is Heather, his child life specialist who gives him toys to entertain him while he is being treated at the hospital. clinical.
“We haven’t heard anything else since it all started,” Shannon said. “He’s doing great and he’s impressing the doctors, so hopefully the (survival) percentage has gone up. He’s a bubbly, happy, happy kid.