Carson Ross, 6, recently asked his mother, “Is everyone being nice to me because I have cancer?”
When Nikki Ross explained that it was a way for people to show they care, it was a lesson she herself had to learn.
“It was hard to let people help,” Ross said. “I didn’t want to burden them by having them do things for us.”
It was her neighbor, Sherryl Cowley, who convinced her to allow neighbors to help bring meals or take Carson’s older siblings to sports practices or activities.
“It’s something they can do to show how much they care for Carson and his family,” Cowley said. “It’s a way they can express their love and support.”
Ross said she has learned many lessons since July 30 when the family learned that Carson had a tumor in his brain after suffering from headaches and double vision for most of the summer. After doctors removed the tumor the next day, Ross and her husband, Steve, learned it was cancerous, and their youngest son had medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor.
“I just lost it at that point. There were a lot of tears. His personality changed from being happy and outgoing to becoming shy and not wanting to be in the spotlight,” she said.
The surgery to remove the tumor also left Carson with complications — the inability to talk, walk, open his eyes and paralysis on the right side of his face. But each day, the family saw Carson gain strength and, eventually, be able to give the family a thumbs-up. Three days before his first radiation treatment on Aug. 24, Carson was able to talk again and was released from the hospital.
“It was a huge blessing for him to come home after three weeks of unexpectedly being away. It all happened so quickly, but especially during that first week, when he couldn’t sit up and didn’t have any fine motor skills, each day seemed so long,” Nikki Ross said.
Carson missed the start of school, but Viewmont first-grade teacher Angie Watts came to his home to help him stay up with his classmates. In October, he was able to attend class since he was stronger and had a month off of chemotherapy.
“He’s a good little kiddo who is excited to be at school with his friends,” Watts said.
Carson still struggles, at times, with some speech or writing, but Watts notices it is coming back to him quickly. She also plans to tutor him in November when he will undergo another month of chemo.
Meanwhile, the community has supported Carson and his family. When they learned that Carson would have chemotherapy, family and neighbors were joined by his older brother Devin’s teammates—about 15 Murray High football team players—in shaving their heads in support.
The University of Utah Utes provided Carson a football they each signed personally for him. A summer softball team, Utah Flash, sponsored a game in Carson’s honor and invited him to throw out the first pitch. Neighbors tied yellow ribbons around the family’s home and yard, and Hillcrest Junior High sewing students created muslin dolls that doctors used to point out to Carson his next procedures.
The help poured out Oct. 11 as friends organized a fun run and silent auction to help the Ross family pay for medical bills. Not only did hundreds of neighbors run and walk in support of Carson, but Viewmont students and teachers, as well as others from area schools, turned out. Murray High had several clubs and teams support him, including his sister Cassidy’s teammates on the volleyball team.
Nikki Ross is beyond grateful.
“This community is amazing; it is a little hidden secret. I’ve learned that these little acts of kindness mean so much — just the daily gifts of friendship. There are good people and hope in the world,” she said.