It really pulled at my heartstrings ~
Young cancer patient wants mail on 4th birthday
Julie B. Gilkay, Post-Crescent Media
Beckett Roerdink has a wish for his fourth birthday: He wants to get mail. Lots of it.
His mother, Melanie, also has a wish for his birthday — that her son, who was diagnosed with an incurable cancer last year, is here to celebrate his fifth birthday.
"He loves mail, so any time he gets mail he gets super excited," Roerdink of Greenville said. "It would just be so awesome if he would just get a bunch of cards for his birthday."
(Send mail to Beckett Roerdink, W6871 Sunnyvale Lane Apartment E, Greenville, WI 54942.)
Little Beckett's family, which also includes dad Kevin, sister Madison, 10, and brother Ethan, 6, are making his birthday Wednesday a cause for celebration. And with good reason. There wasn't much to celebrate last year.
After suffering from a prolonged illness, Beckett underwent testing in April 2013. An MRI revealed something the family hadn't been expecting. Beckett had a large brain tumor. The tumor also had a name: ependymoma.
An ependymoma is the third most common type of brain tumor in children, according to the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation, but they are still relatively rare, with about 200 cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
"Everything changed," Roerdink said.
Days after the diagnosis, the tumor was removed through two surgeries, which had devastating side effects of their own. With the exception of his left hand, Beckett was completely paralyzed and had to face yet another battle — radiation.
Opting for proton radiation with the hope of having a better outcome, the Roerdinks spent two months in Texas for the treatment because of its lack of availability in Wisconsin.
And ever since Beckett has been in therapy — speech, occupational and physical — two to three times a week learning how to walk, talk and do everything preschoolers do.
"Even though he doesn't have the tumor, he has deficits from having the surgery and radiation," Roerdink said.
Beckett wears an eye patch a few hours a day because his cranial nerves have been damaged from the surgery. He recently received inserts for his shoes because his balance hasn't stabilized. He has eye appointments every three months and is returning to Texas later this month to see his oncologist there.
And there is the uncertainty of tomorrow.
Beckett heads to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee every three months for an MRI to check for any tumors or damage to the healthy tissue from radiation. This kind of tumor tends to come back and gets harder to treat, Roerdink said.
"It's a horrible cancer," she said.
There is always that worry, that "scan-xiety," as Roerdink calls it, and living with knowing that the long-term survival rate is five years.
He is due for another MRI Sept. 24.
All of it has taken a toll — emotionally and financially.
Roerdink now works part time so she can take Beckett to all of his medical appointments and therapy sessions. Kevin works full time and overtime. They work opposite schedules so their little guy is always home with a parent. His weakened immunity doesn't allow for anything else. And the family of five is living in a two-bedroom apartment they moved into just after selling their home before this whole cancer nightmare began.
Not that they are complaining.
"We look at everything differently," Roerdink said. "We pretty much live one day at a time and feel beyond blessed. We see things in a whole different light.
"Beckett is the sweetest, most patient boy. You can't not love him. Everyone loves him. He's real easygoing but maybe because he's had no other choice."
With September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Beckett's birthday, Roerdink also hopes that their story makes others more aware of the major medical conditions and cancers children face.
"I only have one true wish and that's they find a cure," she said. "And I hope he has many more birthdays."
It's all the more reason that on Wednesday, when Beckett turns 4, his family wants to mark the happy occasion with a celebration at home and hopefully some cards from the community as well.
"Milestones are huge because we didn't even think that we would get through surgery," Roerdink said.
"We have to do something to celebrate because it's a big deal."
So when Beckett blows out the candles on his cake — either "Monsters University" or Mickey Mouse, he hasn't decided which yet — there will be wishes, smiles, likely even a few tears.
And the gift of Beckett.
— Julie Gilkay: 920-993-1000, ext. 319, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @JulieGilkay
Send a card
Help Beckett Roerdink celebrate his fourth birthday on Wednesday and make his wish come true by sending a card. Mail it to Beckett Roerdink, W6871 Sunnyvale Lane Apartment E, Greenville, WI 54942.
To follow Beckett Roerdink's progress, visit his Caring Bridge page atwww.caringbridge.org/visit/beckettroerdink. To make a donation, visityoucaring.com and type his name in the search fundraiser function.
Until Next Time
Make a child's wish come true!