A Year Of Hardship And Blessings

December 18, 2018
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A Year Of Hardship And Blessings

WEATHERLY — For Dana Scatton it’s been a year of travels — to Jamaica, to California and to a camp in the Rockies. It’s also been a year of travails, as she received and recovered from chemotherapy in the United States and Mexico while treating a tumor that twists through her brainstem. Mostly, it’s been a year with Aries, the daughter whom Dana was set to deliver when diagnosed. “Having Aries in my life makes things easier. She is such a blessing. I don’t know what I’d do without her … Dealing with this is, like, overwhelming … she puts a smile on my face, anyone’s face,” Dana said as her daughter sat in a walker, holding and tasting an action figure. Aries is starting to eat crackers and dry cereal, too, instead of baby food. She can creep down the hall fast enough that Dana, who is unsteady on her feet, needs help from her mother, Lenore, and an aunt while raising Aries. Difficulty walking and balancing provided the first hints of trouble to Dana, who had studied dance for years and previously moved with grace. Doctors told her on Dec. 10, 2017, that she had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, an inoperable brain tumor. She was 17. DIPG usually strikes children even younger. There is no cure. It can kill within months. Dana waited weeks to begin therapy, weighing the slight possibility that treatments would harm the baby she carried against the extra time that the treatments could give them together after Aries was born. On Christmas Day, Dana checked into Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and started radiation treatments the next day. “That’s a long day,” Dana recalled. Eight days later on Jan. 4, Aries was born. This year, Dana hopes to spend Christmas time in the more festive surroundings of her home on Hudsondale Street where members of her large, blended family come and go and with her father, Robert, in McAdoo. “I’ve just been surrounded by my family this year. I love it,” Dana said. Through her parents’ marriages, she has nine brothers and sisters, some with children of their own, and six aunts and uncles, including Troy, who visited from Oregon earlier this year and recently returned for Christmas. The community has reached out to Dana by holding a dance-a-thon, a running race and church gatherings. Firefighters from around the area hosted a picnic for her with Pink Heals, a national organization through which emergency responders help people through chemotherapy. Well-wishers have mailed Aries boots from Italy and dresses from Paris. Mother and daughter get text messages and prayers from people worldwide who have read about them on social media. The Make-A-Wish-Foundation sent Lenore, Dana, her sister, Lydia, and brother, Josiah, to Jamaica. Camp Mak-A-Dream paid for her stay in Montana with other young people who have brain tumors. “It was mountains on mountains on mountains,” said Dana, who rode a horse on the trip. A page on gofundme.com raised nearly $82,000 so far for her treatment. Treatments that she receives in Monterrey, Mexico, cost $11,000 apiece. They are neither proven nor covered by insurance. “At one point,” Lenore said, “an American doctor criticized the Mexican program.” Lenore and other parents of children with DIPG held a conference, and the treatments continued in Monterrey. “It means at least they’re trying something instead of ordinary chemotherapy that doesn’t work,” Lenore said. Dana said she understands why doctors hesitate to perform trials on young children, but, “I’m going to be 19. I know what’s going on.” She plans to meet with a doctor in New Jersey before Christmas to discuss installing a port on her head through which medicine can be delivered. In Monterrey, Dana befriended Kira, another patient with DIPG who lives in California, where Dana traveled to celebrate Kira’s birthday in September. During Dana’s most recent trip to Monterrery, her seventh, she, Lenore and Josiah climbed Mount Chipinque on Dec. 10, the anniversary of her diagnosis, to raise awareness about DIPG. Dana rode up in a vehicle because the tumor hampers her walk. “It looks like I’m drunk,” she said, adding that the tumor numbs half her face. Atop Chipinque, a priest anointed Dana and prayed for her. She believes God can cure her and quotes Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Contact the writer: kjackson@standardspeaker.com 570-501-3587 Each day, Dana reads from a devotional book and writes on her computer. Last week before her trip to Mexico, she shared her faith with women at church. The women replied by writing inspirational messages on cards that they gave to Dana. “I’m waiting for when I need them,” said Dana, holding a stack of still-unopened envelopes. “God has been my whole focal point” she said. “... That’s a change. I feel him speaking to me and showing me he cares and he’s here for me and he’s in control. “I don’t have any control over this, I feel. I felt God hold me the times I needed him most.” Contact the writer: kjackson@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3587

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