By JEANNE STARMACK
Ty Cook has endured a lot for a 14-year-old boy, but the memory of what he’s been through is not what makes him cry.
In August it started: He couldn’t hold down his food.
In September came the diagnosis: medulloblastoma, a slow-growing cancer in the form of a golf-ball-sized brain tumor.
On Sept. 27 the tumor was removed — in pieces, meaning that Ty, of West Faith Street in Struthers, would have to have radiation and chemotherapy to combat any free-floating cancer cells the surgery left behind.
The radiation burned his esophagus, stomach and intestines, so Ty spent 13 days in the hospital before Thanksgiving, in pain and unable to eat.
He’s home now and feeling better, on a break from treatment until his chemotherapy starts next month.
Ty sat Thursday on the couch in his living room, bundled in a blanket and listening to his parents, Shawn and Angela, recall the whole ordeal.
At times, he joined in as they told his story. But the only time his voice caught, the only time he fought back tears, was when he talked about the support he’s gotten and continues to get.
There were, for example, his two brothers, Jacob Fricker, 15, and Seth Cook, also 15, who’d shaved their heads when he lost his hair. Shaved heads appeared on other boys and men in the community in a show of solidarity.
When the Cooks’ neighbors organized a spaghetti dinner and dance to raise money to help Ty’s parents pay bills as they missed work to care for him, 2,000 people lined up out the door at St. Nicholas Parish Hall on Fifth Street on Dec. 1. The dinner raised more than $30,000, and what isn’t used to pay bills will be put in a trust fund for Ty, said his father.
There were so many gifts sent, too, from schoolmates, teachers, family, friends — and even strangers from other countries as traditional and social media spread his story.
“The community — I never thought it would be like this, that they would all come together,” Ty said.
“Even people outside the community,” he continued. “You can’t describe the feeling.”
His parents, too, are grateful for the support. Just traveling back and forth to Akron Children’s Hospital has been costly, said Shawn.
“But so many people have given us gas cards,” said Angela.
Struthers United Methodist Church, where the Cooks belong, sold bracelets to raise money.
A trust fund for Ty, which takes donations at any Huntington Bank branch, remains open.
Ty will have to have chemotherapy until October, and he probably will not return to school this year. But with the help of Shawn’s aunt Mary Bundy, a teacher at Struthers High School, the eighth-grader will be able to keep up with his work and go into ninth grade next year.
His prognosis is good: The chance of the cancer recurring is less than 2 percent, Shawn said.
He gets physical and occupational therapy for some impairments caused by the surgery, his father explained. He’s walking right now without a cane.
Ty’s been able to hold food down now for eight days, the longest he’s gone without vomiting since he got sick in August.
And he’s gained back 3 of the 21 pounds he’s lost.
“It’s the best I’ve felt yet,” he said.