As a high school freshman, Bryce is a teenager with a lot of hobbies. He’s a cross country runner - he hunts with his dad – he plays guitar, although he’ll tell you he’s not that good - and he is getting ready to try out trap shooting.
“Bryce has had some phenomenal experiences,” said Sandy, Bryce’s mom.
For Bryce, it is not just those experiences that shape his life. To fully understand, you need to go back to when Bryce was in second grade.
“There was a bump on the center of his back,” said Sandy. “We didn’t think anything of it. No one saw anything that made us think it was anything more than a skin annoyance.”
Despite its relatively normal appearance, something Sandy described as looking like a bug bite, the bump was causing Bryce discomfort. The decision was made to have it removed, and a biopsy was done on the skin.
It wasn’t until Sandy’s phone rang two weeks later, while she and Bryce were on a school field trip to the zoo, when the gravity of the situation set in.
“When I heard the doctor say ‘we regret to inform you, your son has melanoma skin cancer,’ it was overwhelming, I didn’t know anything other than my child has cancer,” said Sandy.
At just eight years old, Bryce was diagnosed with stage IIB melanoma skin cancer.
“The main thing for us, is when you hear cancer, you feel like you’ve been given a timeline. A timeline you don’t know. You feel like a failure as a parent, because it’s something you can’t control,” recalled Sandy as she choked back tears.
Following the diagnosis, Sandy recalled meeting with several physicians, including Dr. Jon Brandt, a Prevea Pediatric Hematology-Oncologist at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital in Green Bay.
“Dr. Brandt could tell that we were struggling with the diagnosis,” she said. “He took the time after hours to see if there was any sign of cancer in Bryce’s internal organs and to help us understand what was happening.”
Fortunately the cancer had not spread to Bryce’s organs, and he was able to avoid chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Instead, in April 2012, Bryce had surgery to remove any cancerous tissue.
“He has an eight-inch scar on his back, which Bryce considers a badge of courage,” said Sandy.
Now, at 15 years old, Bryce sees Dr. Brandt once a year for regular checkups and also has annual appointments with a dermatologist.
Bryce’s experience with cancer has led him down a path he didn’t see coming… public speaking. Along with speaking during events at his high school, Bryce also spoke at a Mass for HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital in February 2019.
“I encourage all children currently going through treatment or having medical issues to keep fighting on,” said Bryce during his speech. “You are resilient and stronger than you know. Take these challenges forward and become the future leaders we need.”
“My child offers hope to others who are struggling, because he is a survivor,” said Sandy.
And while the road that led them to this point wasn’t always clearly marked, Sandy credits their family’s faith, and the team at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital for getting them to this point.
“When you’re making decisions for a child, you are affecting their entire life, so you want to make sure you are making informed decisions,” said Sandy. “Bryce’s doctors helped us do that.”
Sandy says although Bryce won’t officially be considered cancer free for another few years, he is a survivor.
“I try not to get mad at the diagnosis,” said Sandy. “I just know everything happens for a reason. My hope for Bryce is that he continues to live life to the fullest.”
As the only children’s hospital in Green Bay, HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital is committed to the exceptional care of children, like Bryce, and to the fight against the childhood illnesses and injuries. As part of a nonprofit, Catholic-based health care system, HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital provides care to all who need it – regardless of their ability to pay. You can help. Join the Fight and donate today to a community fundraising campaign that will allow HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital to upgrade its facilities and expand spaces specifically designed for children.