Tricia Nguyen wears a sterling silver charm bracelet adorned with tiny portraits of her son at each stage of his four years of life.
In conversation, she will twirl the bracelet on her wrist and twist the individual pictures of Timothy, who lost a nine month battle to brain cancer in October 2010. Tricia’s firstborn son Justin, 9, calls this treasured bracelet his younger brother’s “life cycle” – a life filled with love, Super Mario Brothers and the aspirations of a preschooler who was just learning things fresh for the first time.
John Nguyen, Timothy’s father, recalled the earliest symptoms when his son returned for his second year of preschool at the Eastlake Children’s Center in the fall of 2009. Timothy was wearing new back-to-school skater shoes, and a teacher recommended perhaps buying sturdier gym shoes because he was stumbling throughout the day. Other symptoms followed, and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam ordered by Timothy’s pediatrician confirmed the dire diagnosis on January 12, 2010.
Timothy’s tumor was a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), the most malignant of the brainstem tumors. Approximately 90 percent of children with DIPG die within two years of diagnosis despite treatment.
When John and Tricia received the news about Timothy, they had many conversations with Dr. Crawford about the options to treat this aggressive disease. On Dr. Crawford’s recommendation, the family chose a combination of radiation and oral chemotherapy.
Timothy’s health declined. Nearly six months before Timothy’s death, the couple knew they had to make a difference and change other children’s lives in honor of their dying son. In May 2010, John and Tricia launched a Miracle Makers fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 for naming a patient room in honor of Timothy and to support cancer research by Dr. Crawford.
The family is well on their way to fulfilling the pledge in Timothy’s honor. In 2011, the Friends and Family of Timothy J. Nguyen raised more than $37,000 by having a variety of fundraisers. These fundraisers consisted of restaurant events with Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, Nadolife and Pampered Chef. In addition, they also held a multiple day tennis tournament in their San Diego neighborhood. They have also received donations from co-workers as part of Hewlett-Packard’s matching funds program. They’ve already passed the halfway point in a matter of a year – all by having small fundraisers and events. Through this fundraising, the family started their journey toward healing.
For more information about the Nguyen family’s fundraising campaign, visit www.friendsoftimothynguyen.com.
For more information about the Neuro-Oncology Program at Rady Children’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, visit www.rchsd.org. To support Rady Children’s Neuro-Oncology Program, visit www.rchsd.org, click on “Donate Now,” and select “Cancer Care Center” from the drop-down menu.