October 13, 2008

Positivity: Brain tumor survivor Taylor Parks returns

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Salem, Virginia:

Posted: Friday, October 3, 2008 12:28 pm

Taylor Parks went back to school this fall.

That might not seem like a big accomplishment for most 14-year-olds, but in Taylor’s case, it’s a miracle.

Four years ago in the middle of his season as a Little League pitcher, the fourth-grader was benched with severe headaches, flu-like symptoms and sensitivity to light. He was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumor. Most of it was successfully removed – and then Taylor went into a coma for eight months.

When he work up, he had missed his birthday, his whole fifth-grade year at Glenvar Elementary in Salem, Va., and other ordinary milestones in his family’s life.

Scans showed cancer cells seeded around the periphery of his brain. His condition got worse, and hospice was called in.

Through it all, his family’s faith sustained them.

“I never believed I was going to lose him,” said his mother. Now the youngest son of Alicia and Kenny Parks is attending classes at Glenvar Middle School half days, usually five days a week. Taylor especially likes physical education, where he is able to swing at a ball and be around some of the friends he grew up with.

It’s different though. The the tumor and resulting treatment stole Taylor’s sight, hearing and ability to talk. His family believes some of those senses and abilities are coming back.

His parents, grandparents Fred and Alta Dixon and Joe and Alice Parks and older brothers, Josh, who is 23, and Liberty University senior Shane, 22, are convinced all the community support, prayers and lots and lots of physical and other therapy are helping to bring back his abilities.

“Taylor started to school going from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, the third week of September,” his mom explained. “We will get together in about six weeks and reassess. We may increase his hours more then.”

Taylor’s days are filled with other kinds of learning, too. He goes to physical and occupational therapy for several hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and to Mona’s Ark on Fridays for an hour.

This Saturday, Taylor and other young people and adults with special needs will be welcoming the community to Mona’s Ark for Llama Fest 2004. The annual event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If there’s rain, it will be held the following Saturday, Oct. 11.

The llama show is a fund raiser for those who need special help, like Taylor.

People who attend can not only hug a llama, but walk with one, purchase crafts Taylor and others made from llama wool, get massages, bid on items in a silent auction and buy tickets for raffle items.

Taylor has been reaching outside himself at Mona’s Ark for a year. Photographs that show Taylor touching and feeding a llama, with a little help from his PaPaw Dixon, or the teenager taking a bite of a meal himself are evidence of major milestones in themselves, his mother explained.

“A year-and-a-half ago were not even able to touch Taylor’s face due to his tactile sensitivity,” she said.

In another photograph made in August at Mona’s Ark, Taylor holds a bunny on his lap, another way to help him get over that sensitivity to touching or being touched. There’s a photo of Taylor carding llama wool, too, with the help of brother Shane.

He’s advanced in other ways, too. While once he was bedridden in the hospital bed in the family’s former dining room that became Taylor’s room, he can get up from the sofa and propel himself through the house in search of what he wants.

Taylor also bowls, with help from his dad, Kenny, and friends.

He lost his sight almost overnight. “One day he had 20-25 vision, and practically nothing the next day,” his mother explained.

Now, she believes Taylor has some sight.

“The eye doctor, Dr. Facciani with Vistar in Salem, gave Taylor his ‘best guess’ glasses after shining a light in Taylor’s eyes. About three months ago, Taylor reached across to pick up something. An ophthalmologist at the University of Virginia didn’t give us much hope his sight would return. Every time the doctors say Taylor can’t do something, he does it.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

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