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Sussex Countian
  • Georgetown boy with brain tumor receives a special visit

  • A British sports car from California, a toy chest from Michigan and a little girl from Texas on Tuesday helped to brighten the summer for a Georgetown boy suffering from an inoperable brain tumor.


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  • A British sports car from California, a toy chest from Michigan and a little girl from Texas on Tuesday helped to brighten the summer for a Georgetown boy suffering from an inoperable brain tumor.
    “It was cool,” 6-year-old Greysen Hitchens said after opening the toy chest and taking a ride in “Grace,” a 1953 Austin Healey 100 being driven around the country by John Nikas of Irvine, Calif.
    Nikas and Grace visited Greysen on The Circle in Georgetown as part of their second cross-country trip for Drive Away Cancer, their personal mission to bring joy and inspiration to cancer patients and cancer survivors.
    “Grace is a metaphor for cancer,” Nikas explained. “She’s rusty and she’s broken and she has difficulties but she goes out and does things in spite of her problems.”
    Nikas and Grace are currently visiting cancer patients and survivors in all 50 states. So far, they have collected more than 10,00 signatures on Grace’s body along the way.
    “She’s a rolling memorial and hopefully an inspiration,” Nikas said. “Almost every person we visit says that for the hour we’re there, or however long they are riding in Grace, their child forgets that they’re sick. For a child, there is nothing more valuable in the world than to feel that.”
    Greyson, who lives on Old Furnace Road, was first diagnosed with a form of epilepsy in 2010. Doctors at A.I. duPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington later discovered a tumor deep in his brain.
    After undergoing surgery to remove the mass last summer, Greysen returned to the hospital in October, only to learn that the tumor had returned.
    Greysen’s doctors, including world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, agreed that the tumor was too diffuse to be removed through further surgery and too deep to be treated with radiation.
    “Basically, he’s looking at a lifetime of treatment,” Greysen’s mother, Lesley Hitchens, said. “Right now, he potentially could have a port placed in his chest and then for the next year we would have to make a weekly trip to Wilmington where he would receive a six-hour chemo infusion.”
    Fortunately, she said, she and her family have found a tremendous source of comfort and support through their Pray for Grey Facebook page.
    “From that Facebook page, we’ve found a whole interconnected community of people across the country who have been so caring and wonderful,” Hitchens said.
    One of the people the family encountered on Facebook was Emma Routh, a 7-year-old girl from Larue, Texas, who is battling Fanconi anemia.
    Page 2 of 2 - “She and Greysen have become really good friends,” Hitchens said. “She calls our son her Facebook boyfriend and they message each other and send each other videos back and forth.”
    Nikas also recently met Emma when he and Grace visited a hospital in Boston.
    “I asked her if there was anything I could do for her and she told me her one wish was for Grace to pick up a toy chest in Michigan and take it to Greysen in Delaware,” he said. “So that’s exactly what we did.”
    The toy chest came from Team Keegan, a nonprofit group founded earlier this year by the parents of a Fremont, Mich. child also diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The organization creates handmade wooden boxes and fills them with toys for children who are actively undergoing cancer treatment.
    After presenting the toy chest to Greysen, Nikas and Grace gave rides to the 6-year-old, as well as his brothers, 10-year-old Michael and 3-year-old Ty.
    They also visited with 10-year-old Madison Vogel and 8-year-old Katie Vogel, whose 5-year-old sister Gabby died from cancer last September.
    The girls’ mother, Carolynn Vogel of Ocean View, recently started The Get Well Gabby Foundation to raise money for childhood brain cancer research and provide resources to families affected by childhood cancer.
    “I really wanted to give my other girls a chance to sign the car on behalf of their sister,” Carolynn Vogel said. “We’re all about fighting for other kids now, so doing things like supporting Greysen and Drive Away Cancer is very important to us.”
    Lesley Hitchens said receiving support from the Vogels, the Rouths, Drive Away Cancer, Team Keegan and hundreds of well-wishers across the country has been invaluable in boosting the spirits of her family through Greyson’s ordeal.
    “When you see your child go through so much more than any child should, there are no words to describe what it does to a mother’s heart when you see people reach out like this,” she said Tuesday. “You want your child to be happy, and so much about what he’s been through has not been happy, so getting to have an experience like this is huge.”
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