Carson Presber, a student at Notre Dame Academy, was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, but received support from family, friends, his school and his church.
Lois Presber, Carson’s mom, noticed something wasn’t right with her then 12-year-old son at the end of May last year. The Medicine Hat doctors moved quickly in trying to find answers. They were transferred to the Alberta Children’s Hospital at the beginning of July, when they still weren’t sure of his diagnosis.
“They did another MRI scan and more blood work, and based on markers they were 90% confident it was a germinoma brain tumour,” said Lois. “They were also debating wanting to do a sample through his skull.”
Carson recently shared his story with the congregation at The Link Christian Fellowship.
“My parents discussed it with each other, and with God, and came to the conclusion that we should start treatment immediately and forgo the brain sample, so that is what we did,” Carson shared. “And the next day, on July 15, my 13th birthday, I had my first dose of chemotherapy.”
Two weeks later, after an MRI, the doctor said the tumour had shrunk and they could now confirm it was the type of cancer they suspected.
“It was such a huge relief to hear, and we thanked God for his guidance and assistance … From that point on, we realized God was in control and I just felt his peace,” said Carson. “I knew that God would protect me and it was a joyous day in a dark period.”
For about five months through the summer and into the fall of 2020, Carson underwent four rounds of chemotherapy with four treatments each.
In September, Lois said the radiation oncologist recommended they seek radiation in the States because they have proton radiation treatment, but in Canada we don’t. After making sure everything was in line for travel and treatment and a place to stay, Carson and his mom flew to Seattle.
Lois says after they told their friends about the treatment, they quickly gathered together to organize Carson’s Army Mini Golf Classic and a corporate fundraiser to help them with the cost.
“There was so much support from friends and community with dropping off meals, bottle drives from the hockey teams and community,” Lois said. “It was so amazing to see how everyone who heard Carson’s story just wanted to help – we were blessed with all of the support.”
Once teachers and administrators at Notre Dame Academy learned of Carson’s situation, they wanted to help. They started a regular Friday event, called Hats on for Carson, where students paid a loonie to wear a hat during school.
“There were kids that paid and didn’t wear a hat, there were kids that brought in way more than just a loonie, we had one kid donate $200,” said Tyler Stahl, teacher at Notre Dame. “It was awesome.”
Stahl says all the money raised with Hats on for Carson was given directly to the family to help pay for his treatments. Stahl was touched by the Presber family’s situation.
“Being a dad myself, putting myself in a situation … we just tried to help them out as best we could.”
Notre Dame Academy also participates in the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Walk for Wishes. In the spring of 2021, they raised $6,707 in Carson’s name.
“He’s just such a trooper,” said Neal Siedlecki, principal of Notre Dame Academy. “With anything, there’s always hope and that’s what you pray for. I think that through prayer and family support and just a lot of kindness, he’s going to do just fine.”
Lois is happy to report “the tumour is dissolved and the scans are coming back clear.”
“It was a humbling experience to see everyone support us and love us like that, it was totally not what we were expecting or looking for in any capacity so it was just amazing to see everybody just pull together and show how much they cared for our family.”
LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News