Enthusiasm and optimism abound in the Duncan household, with 2017 as bright as 2016 seemed, at times, dark. Thirteen-year-old Dylan Duncan is living life as a kid his age should, attending seventh-grade classes, excited about sports, making his parents, Vernon and Rebecca, more proud with each day.
Dylan is in remission now, the osteosarcoma diagnosis from last year now in the rear-view mirror after six rounds of chemotherapy that ended on Jan. 5. The diagnosis had come on Mother’s Day 2016 – yes, Mother’s Day – and of course shook his Cleveland, Tennessee family to its core.
Dylan’s mother Rebecca, having now officially made the trip to hell and back, is grateful that the Austin Hatcher Foundation has been along for the ride.
“Many, many times they have helped us keep our sanity,” Rebecca says. She is especially indebted – on a personal level, as all foundation services are provided at no charge – to Bryan Humphreys, the foundation’s clinical social worker and Dr. April Nesin, the foundation’s clinical psychologist. Their efforts, she says, have been vital to helping not only Dylan but she and Vernon cope with the challenges arising from a battle against cancer.
“Dylan had a lot of medical procedures and a lot of anxiety because of all that,” Rebecca says. “Bryan talked to Dylan about those issues. And April helped me with my issues.”
Another help has been the ongoing community of children and family members who come to the Austin Hatcher Foundation’s headquarters for various services – and then attend various community activities designed to provide a respite from their collective struggles. “We’ve met many others who have been through what we have,” Rebecca says. We have made many lifelong friends ds through the foundation. We’ve just been blessed.”
In a fight against cancer, there are “mile markers” of sorts. Victories, small and large, are logged – and cherished. The Duncans had a big win earlier this year when it came time for Dylan to return to school, a new school – in the middle of his seventh grade year after missing several months while he underwent treatments.
“Changing his schools was one of my biggest fears,” Rebecca says.
Dr. Nesin, she adds, “was pivotal,” in the process paving the way with Dylan’s new school, outlining the accommodations the boy would need.”
“She calmed my nerves,” Rebecca says now, with a slight laugh. It’s good to laugh. Duncan’s back doing that, as well.
“I feel great,” says Duncan, who is eagerly looking ahead to playing soccer and golf, and so much more.
“Bryan really helped me out a lot,” he says. “He helped me get back into a normal life.”