By Kathleen Swift • Photos by Artistic Expressions Photography
Cancer is always a devastating diagnosis. And, when you are 11 when you get this diagnosis, it changes everything.
For Christian Heady, it meant going from being active in middle school football and other sports, going to school and playing with friends to doctor appointments, chemotherapy and surgery. But, Christian is not your ordinary kid.
“He’s a miracle,” said his mom, Ashley Allen, “and that’s no exaggeration. We try to keep life as normal as possible for Christian. Every single day is a blessing.”
When he came in from driving around in a golf cart, Christian talked about being excited to be able to go to school for a few days before he had to travel to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City for his chemotherapy treatment.
With all the bubbly enthusiasm of a middle schooler, Christian said, “It was nice to see everyone, and I’m excited to have a normal routine. My teachers said I could make up what I missed in class when I get back to school after my chemo.”
Ever the football fan, Christian said, “We’re trying to move my chemo up a few hours so I can get home for the football game on Friday night.”
Following his September chemo treatment, Christian will travel to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York for his first surgery.
Christian’s dad, Doug Heady, said, “He’s a strong kid, and I keep telling him that he is going to have one hell of a story to tell one day. Christian has a rare cancer that mainly occurs in pre-teen boys. He is one of nine children with active cases in the U.S. In this cancer, chromosomes 11 and 22 stick together and fire up cancer growth. Christian has numerous tumors in his body, and his first surgery will take 15 to 20 hours. He will remain in the hospital for about 20 days.
“I like for the doctors to shoot straight with me when they give me information. I always ask Christian if he has any questions, and sometimes he does. I have a chronic condition, and he’s seen me deal with nausea and pain, and he’ll ask about how to handle his nausea and pain,” said Doug.
Although divorced, Christian’s parents work together to support and care for Christian. For many of his hospitalizations, both Doug and Ashley have been able to be with Christian. Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York will only allow one parent in the hospital with a patient due to COVID-19. Doug and Ashley will each take a 10-day turn staying with Christian, so he will always have a parent with him.
Support from family, friends and the community has been an anchor for Christian, Ashley and Doug. Two Facebook pages have been set up to show support for Christian: “Fight with Christian” and “Christian’s Journey.” Christian has a Tik Tok page (christianheady) of his own he would like people
“I like to make videos and post them,” said Christian with his usual excitement. “I’d like to get more viewers.”
In his videos, Christian is very frank about his journey with cancer and the side effects of his treatment.
“This diagnosis came from out of the blue,” said Ashley. “One day, he was a healthy little boy who complained of a stomach ache, and three days later we were at the hospital getting chemotherapy for stage 4 sarcoma. The support we’ve received is overwhelming. The prayers for Christian and the money that’s been raised has helped us through this process. So many have worked tirelessly to help. We are so grateful.”
Doug explained, “This is such a rare cancer, but I’ve found an online support group for parents of children with Christian’s type of cancer. I’ve received good advice from the parents. Since there are so few kids in the country with this type of cancer, I’ve been able to call every parent and visit with them.
“Christian is what I think of as an old soul. He has a maturity about him that most kids his age don’t have. He’s amazing.”
Ashley, too, has connected with moms of “kiddos with all types of cancers. Some have overcome, some earned their wings and each and every one of their stories touched my heart so deeply. I made a promise to God, Christian and myself that we will make something positive and good out of this temporary situation.”
How to Help
To make a donation, go to the Facebook pages “Fight with Christian” and “Christian’s Journey,” where you will find links to PayPal directed to a bank account at SMB. You may also make a donation at any SMB branch to the Christian Heady account to help the family with Christian’s expenses.