By Senior Airman Grace Lee, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 17, 2015
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Every once in a while there are moments that change everything. For one mom and dad, it was learning they might lose their 2-year-old son, Paul.
Paul was asleep on the floor in his two sisters' bedroom. He liked to camp out there sometimes. There was a loud shriek and when Tech. Sgt. Tim Boyer, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs media operations NCO in charge, and his wife Jaycee, ran to the bedroom, they found Paul having a seizure.
"When I turned the corner to his room, it was really obvious Paul was having a seizure even though I had never seen one in person," said Jaycee, a stay-at-home mom. "Our 7-year-old daughter, Jenell, dialed 911, the paramedics came and then we were taken to the emergency room."
Initially, doctors believed Paul had suffered a febrile seizure, a convulsion caused by a fever in small children, until they noticed a bruise on his head caused by a fall Paul had two days earlier.
The doctor ordered a computerized tomography scan and found what they thought at the time was a cystic mass. Paul was then transferred to Banner Thunderbird Medical Center for further evaluation.
"They found a tumor and not a cystic mass," Tim said. "But their pediatric neurosurgeon wasn't going to be back for a week, so Paul had to be transferred again, and at that time my wife asked for him to be transferred to Phoenix Children's Hospital."
At the PCH further evaluations were made before Paul was referred to Dr. David Adelson, one of the best neurosurgeons in his field.
"One of the doctors said it looks to be a dysembryoplastic nuroepithlial tumor and as far as tumors go, it's the one to have," Jaycee said. "That neurosurgeon said, 'I'm going to refer you to a colleague, but he's out of town right now, so you'll have to come back next week.'
"She didn't tell us at the time, but she was referring us because of where the tumor was, its shape and because it caused the seizure. So they sent us home with anti-seizure medication, and the following week we went to to our appointment."
He advised surgery in order to see what exactly Paul had.
"The day of surgery we got updates from the operation room every hour," Jaycee said. "After surgery he said, 'Unfortunately it's not what we thought it was. It doesn't appear to be benign. The initial pathology reports show it's growing aggressively, but we won't know for sure until we get the whole pathology report back.'"
Another disappointment was that they were unable to remove the whole tumor because of the way it grew in the brain.
Devastated, questions immediately began filling their minds.
Tim asked, 'If it is benign, what will happen?' The doctor said treatment for a benign tumor is removing it entirely to prevent neurological problems.
Whatever the case, this was going to be a long road to walk for the family.
Prior to Paul becoming ill, Jaycee spent her days homeschooling her children.
"That's when I knew I wouldn't be able to continue to homeschool the kids, so we enrolled them in public school," Jaycee said. I knew I had to be available for Paul's treatment and all the future hospital visits."
They found out about a school that focuses on teaching good values to kids. The school was difficult to get into and there were other obstacles, such as tuition, school fees and other rising costs
"At the time we heard the school was hard to get into because of limited space, but a friend looked into it for us, Tim said. "That same day we learned both kids were accepted to the school."
Additionally, all school fees, including a $600 kindergarten fee and field trip expenses were paid in full by someone from their church. This support from friends, family and church throughout was immense in helping make the circumstances bearable.
Paul remained in the hospital for a few more days recovering. Meanwhile, Tim and Jaycee did what they could to get through the following five days before hearing about the lab results.
"The doctor called and said, 'This is something I've never seen before,'" Tim said. "He continued, 'I learned something today. Paul has a very, very rare tumor, and it's also very, very, very benign. This tumor is so benign there is no need for more surgery or additional treatment."
Looking back, Tim believes, while there is never a perfect time to be told your child has a cancerous brain tumor, it was as perfect as timing could get.
"All of this happened two days before I was scheduled to take leave for 30 days," Tim said. "It was like God had arranged my leave to happen the way it did. He knew I would need to be off for an extended time."
The community support Tim and Jaycee received was tremendous.
"During the time we weren't sure what was going to happen to Paul, my sister set up a Go Fund Me account to help us with additional expenses," Tim said. "My work center also made a donation to us, which helped with gas, food and more. My sister in-law set up a Facebook page called 'Prayers for Paulie' for people to post prayers and words of encouragement."
There were more than 1,000 followers. Their church in Surprise, Christ's Church of the Valley, also prayed for them, brought meals and more. Chaplain Barns from the Luke chapel also commuted to Phoenix Children's Hospital to pray with and comfort the Boyers during the ordeal.
What kept Tim strong was his faith, he said.
"The whole time we weren't sure if Paul would have a positive outcome, but our hope was in God," he said. "I was scared and didn't know what would happen, but I prayed for the ability to accept whatever God's plan was for our son. I am thankful we have our son and get to spend many more years with him. It's also pretty cool to see Paul be a normal kid again who's happy and more talkative than ever."
Through the power of social media, family and church, many people were touched by Paul's journey.
"We both believe God did a miracle in Paul's life," Jaycee said. "We believe there is a much bigger picture than we can see and higher purpose we don't fully understand. We've already heard many accounts of lives touched by Paul's story, and we're sure there are countless others we may never know about."