They called him Mr. Man. At just two years old, Alexander Brown already exemplified traits a grown man could only aspire to be; he was courageous, strong, determined, kind, thoughtful, sweet and fun. His parents, Tara and Jonathan Brown, adored their baby-boy and loved watching him grow and flourish. Each day of Alexander’s life brought a new adventure, a new smile, a new discovery and Tara and Jonathan couldn’t wait for the next burst of infectious laughter or a sweet hug from Mr. Man.
In their worst nightmares, Tara and Jonathan could never have imagined that their fun-loving, growing, innocent, little boy would not live to see his third birthday. They could never have known that living deep within Alexander’s brain, was a tumor the size of a lemon, wreaking havoc on his tiny system. It was only after Alexander’s second birthday, that Tara and Jonathan began noticing a shift in Alexander’s behaviour. He began experiencing strange symptoms. Alexander developed tremors in his hands, his balance deteriorated, he began throwing-up and complaining of bad headaches. After several trips to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, a CT scan confirmed their worst fears; Alexander had cancer.
Over the next 10 months, Alexander underwent aggressive treatments to attack the tumour. Originally diagnosed with medulloblastoma, Tara and Jonathan took solace in the fact that this type of childhood cancer had a high survival rate. However, watching their son go through such harsh treatments was heart breaking. Over the course of Alexander’s cancer treatments, he had two brain surgeries, a central line placed in his chest and in his leg, two external ventricular drains placed in his head, stem-cells removed, stem-cell transplant, intrathecal chemotherapy, countless blood draws, LPs, CTs, MRIs, chemotherapy, radiation and countless other procedures. Throughout it all, Alexander was brave like a man, but still possessed the heart of a child. When asked about his cancer, Alexander would point to the back of his head and say, “Owie,” and continue playing.
After a follow-up MRI revealed more tumours growing in Alexander’s brain and spine, the doctors decided to do one more brain surgery to find out why Alexander wasn’t responding to treatment and give him some extra time. Doctors discovered that the tumor was not what it initially appeared to be. Alexander’s tumour was in fact an embryonal tumor with abundant neuropil and true rosettes (ETANTR). This type of tumor can mask itself and then change its cell structure. The median survival rate for ETANTR is 10 months and Alexander was the 36th reported case in the world.
Tara and Jonathan were faced with a decision no parent should ever have to face. With the help and guidance of doctors, Tara and Jonathan decided they would spend the rest of Alexander’s life living. No more hospitals and no more treatments. For the next few months, that’s exactly what the Brown family did. They made memories in Hawaii, where Alexander swam with dolphins, enjoyed hot tubs and released butterflies. They visited with family and friends, took a helicopter tour in Banff, enjoyed the Banff Hot Springs and had a massive party where fireman showed up and gave everyone a ride in the fire truck. The Brown family savoured every moment together and Tara and Jonathan were there with Alexander right until the very end.
On October 23, 2010, Alexander Brown passed-away, but Mr. Man’s spirit continues to live on. Tara and Jonathan decided to donate Alexander’s brain and tumour to research, so that one day, there will be a cure for ETANTR. Alexander’s tumour continues to grow in the lab and is the first and only ETANTR tumour in history to do that. He even has his own cell line called BT-183(AB). This means researchers have something to research on.
By donating here, you will be helping researchers in their quest to understand the biological origins and nature of this high-risk brain tumour. It will also help keep his cell line alive and enable it to be shipped and used all over the world. Your gift will help keep Alexander’s memory alive and one day it may lead to a cure for ETANTR.