It’s been said that cancer doesn’t just damage its victim, but all those around him or her as well.
That thought is clearly evident for the Lightner family, who have lived in Long Valley since 2004.
Glenn Lightner, 13-years-old and in eighth grade at the , was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma grade III brain cancer in 2007, and has undergone four surgeries since then–the most recent coming on Monday, March 5.
Lightner’s condition is extremely rare, as it , according to his father, Larry Lightner.
Until recently, the family was quiet about their eldest son’s condition. But as time marched on and prognoses grew bleak, the family realized it needed to try alternative measures.
With that decision, however, comes incurred costs–something the family is struggling to find currently.
After moving to Long Valley, Glenn Lightner’s mom, Sylvia, decided she would leaver her job in Manhattan as a manufacturing professional and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
The Lightners decided then they would use their savings and retirement funds to put Sylvia through medical school, Larry Lightner said.
After years of schooling and training, Sylvia Lightner finally realized her dream, and became a registered nurse. Almost simultaneously, her husband said, an MRI on Glenn’s brain revealed a golf ball-sized tumor. Glenn was just eight years old.
The tumor was immediately removed and Glenn underwent radiation treatment, but in December 2010, another scan revealed more tumors on his brain. Those were removed, but Glenn–with his mom by his side–spent nearly five months at St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee undergoing treatment.
Despite the surgeries and the treatments, Glenn’s condition worsened, as he underwent another surgery in December 2011.
“When the doctor calls you, you’re wishing he’ll say things look good,” Larry Lightner said. “But this time things got significantly worse.”
Five more small tumors were found in January, and Glenn is now recovering from his most recent surgery earlier this month.
“We used our savings so (Sylvia) could become a nurse, and it just hasn’t been able to work out,” Lightner said. “With all the surgeries and hospital stays, she hasn’t been able to really work. That's basically what spiked us into the ground."
The surgeries, which have removed the tumors but extracted healthy tissue as well from Glenn’s brain, have caused him to lose peripheral vision.
You wouldn’t know Glenn has been through so much when talking to him though, his father says.
“His surgery was on Monday, and by Sunday he was out playing basketball,” Lightner said. “If you talk to him and his brother Carl (11-years-old), you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong.”
But the Lightner family’s frustration continues to grow. Doctors believe time is running short, Lightner said, but want to treat Glenn with therapies that may not yield results.
“What’s available (in the U.S.) for Glenn's condition,” Lightner said, “there isn’t much success rate. We need to look elsewhere.”
After the most recent surgery, Larry Lightner took parts of the tumors removed from Glenn’s brain and sent them to doctors in Belgium and Germany. The family is prepared to travel and try new techniques to save their son, Lightner said.
The family has researched nearly 50 clinics worldwide to try alternative measures, Lightner said, and they may be traveling to Germany before the end of the month.
Not a day goes by without neighbors attempting to assist the Long Valley family in some way, Lightner said.
“The community–it’s just been amazing to us,” he said. “The entire town has just been incredible.”
Friends and neighbors have begun to raise awareness for Glenn Lightner’s cause, and are currently raising money for the family to pursue alternative healthcare.
Donations are being asked for through a giveforward.com page, which can be found here.
The Lightners will bear the full burden of the cost of alternative medicine, the site says.
A second webpage has also been created with a letter from Glenn Lightner himself, which can be found at cureforglenn.com.