Ellis Family Finds Hope at Hatch’s

The Ellis family recently traveled from Long Island, NY to Hatch’s House of Hope in Chattanooga, TN to partake in a 5 week, Cognitive Remediation program. The Ellis’s have a remarkable story to share about finding hope.

Drew

When Drew was about 17 months old, his parents started to notice a change. The normally healthy Drew would often become sick when drinking from his bottle. His parents took him to the pediatrician and were told to change his milk. That didn’t help. Around this same time, Drew underwent surgery and the surgeons noticed a small lump on his side and suggested that the Ellis’s should get it checked out, just to be safe, although it was probably nothing. Shortly after, Drew was at daycare one day and the teacher noticed he was holding his side. Mr. Ellis called his wife, said not to worry, and took Drew to the emergency room. When Mrs. Ellis arrived, she noticed a lot of oncologists coming in and out of Drew’s room. They said it could be cancer. “Cancer?  That couldn’t be true. I had just lost my mother two years before due to breast cancer. So to hear that was very difficult,” recalled Cynthia Ellis. That date of that visit was June 27. Drew started Chemotherapy on July 4. He underwent 7 months of chemotherapy, 5 cycles, 3 different chemo agents, and a liver resection. On his 2nd birthday, December 8, Drew’s chemotherapy ended and his liver cancer was gone.

Searching for Hope

This past March, the effects from the chemotherapy really became noticeable. Drew had psychological testing done through his school and his scores regarding his IQ and cognitive levels were very low. “We didn’t really expect all of the academic issues that he currently has. They didn’t tell us how the chemo agents could affect his brain, thinking, or processing,” Cynthia explained. “My husband and I went into a small state of depression, and said to ourselves, what can we do to help Drew?” The Ellis’s began researching cognitive issues with cancer patients. All of the articles said the same thing: even after surviving, some of the long term effects are still very serious.  The Ellis’s realized they were not the only ones dealing with this, and began to search even further for help. Cynthia came across a study in which Dr. Robert Butler was a part of, so she called him hoping for answers. “I told him my story and he listened and was so helpful. Dr. Butler told me he was about to take a job at Hatch’s House of Hope and told me to look up the website and read about what they offer” said Cynthia. “I thanked him for talking with me; sometimes you just need somebody to understand what you’re going through.” Cynthia perused the website, and quickly called Patricia Kassebaum, Clinical Director at Hatch’s House of Hope. “She made me feel so much better. I went from being so depressed for about a month, then I talked to her and had a whole new insight on the future of Drew. I asked her what the cost was- she said there was no cost. Everything is funded by donations.”

Finding Hope at Hatch’s 

The Ellis’s arrived in Chattanooga on June 25 for Drew’s 5 week, 10 session cognitive remediation program with the staff at Hatch’s House of Hope. “As soon as I walked in, I felt as if I was walking into a family member’s home. Everybody was so nice. Patricia gave me a bag of groceries and toiletries as soon as I walked in. I didn’t miss home as much as I thought I would because they made us feel so comfortable here.” Drew’s cognitive remediation program lasted for 5 weeks, with 2 sessions a week. The program is designed to provide learning strategies to overcome learning deficits in memory, processing, and thinking, that may be associated with childhood cancer survivors. “The strategies Drew has learned can be carried over into his everyday life, at school, and in social situations. “The program is wonderful and easy to use. He feels as if he has accomplished something. Whereas before, his teachers would always tell him he’s doing it wrong,” Cynthia stated. “Being at Hatch’s has been an eye-opening experience. If you learn how to teach a child a different way to do something it can change their whole life.”  One of the best moments for the Ellis family was hearing Dr. Butler say that Drew can learn; he is a fast learner and has what he needs, but just has to put it all toghether. “Nobody has told us that before. I think tears came to mine and my husband’s eyes. To hear from someone like Dr. Butler that Drew is capable of learning was worth the whole trip.”