A boy who grew out his hair for cancer survivors is now facing his own struggle with the disease.
Vinny Desautels’ parents initially thought seasonal allergies were to blame for his puffy right eye. Rounds of tests revealed the 7-year-old from Roseville, California, is facing stage 4 cancer.
The family is awaiting final confirmation from doctors that Vinny has Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of tumor that forms in bone or soft tissue. The second-grader is scheduled to begin treatment this week, starting with a bone marrow biopsy and chemotherapy, said his father, Jason Desautels.
“We know it’s cancer, stage 4, because it spread in two different locations and it’s aggressive,” he said. “Now we’re trying to figure out what we’re dealing with so we can come up with a plan.”
Vinny’s eye started getting “squintier” in March, Desautels said. They tried prescription eye drops and allergy medication with no success. Vinny started complaining of an aching knee and his parents noticed his hip was swollen.
That’s when they really started to get worried.
A visit to the emergency room on April 28 and an X-ray revealed a significant growth on his right hip. The next day his pediatrician sent the family to a hospital in Sacramento with a handwritten note.
Blood tests, MRIs, and a CT scan revealed tumors on his hip and in the bone around his eye.
Vinny’s ordeal touched well-wishers around the country when it came to light that he grew his hair for two years to donate it to cancer survivors.
An online fundraising campaign for Vinny started by his grandparents raised more than $50,000 in one week.
The family appreciates the support even as they adjust to the kind of attention no parent would ever want. They’re not used to asking others for help and sometimes it feels “weird,” Desautels said. But he knows the family will need it to cover medical costs and incidental expenses, such as travel and missed work.
Each day of work that Vinny’s mother misses as a self-employed hairstylist is lost income. She’s six months pregnant, so she can’t attend his radiation treatments during her pregnancy. Desautels said he’s lucky to work for a small farm hardware business that’s flexible. But it will take a lot of juggling to care for Vinny, his 12-year-old brother and to make sure bills are paid.
“We’re all right but we’re just a blue collar family and we work to live comfortably,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vinny is trying to stay positive. After missing a week of school he’s going back on Tuesday to finish end-of-year tests. He’s got a copy of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” to bring to treatments.
“We’re very thankful but I don’t want to lie to people: The circumstances are terrible. I’d rather have healthy kid.”
By Emanuella Grinberg