CNN National Correspondent René Marsh Lost Her Baby Boy to Brain Cancer, But Now His Memory Lives on in the Children’s Book She Wrote for other Children Faced with Adversity

For CNN correspondent René Marsh, this holiday season is likely to hit harder than most. Her son, Blake, tragically died of brain cancer earlier this year, and this would have been his second Christmas. But to ensure his memory lives on, she captured his resilient spirit in a children’s book intended to inspire other children facing adversity.

“The Miracle Workers: Boy vs. Beast is back in stock just in time for the holidays!” Marsh said in a promotional announcement on Instagram. It’s the perfect gift to inspire a little one in your life to have hope in the face of adversity. All proceeds go to childhood cancer research #cancelchildhoodcancer”

Blake’s Cancer Journey

Blake was born on March 14, 2019 and Marsh still considers it “the best day of” [her] to live.”

“That was the day I became a mother,” Marsh tells Yahoo Life. “I met this person who grew up inside me for nine months, and he was a very happy, fun and smiley baby until 9 months old.”

Her concern for her baby’s well-being started after she saw that Blake could no longer control one of his eyes, causing him to squint. She took him to an eye doctor who told her Blake would need an MRI if they didn’t notice any improvements. And after closely monitoring her son’s eye, Marsh grew increasingly concerned.

On December 22, 2019, her concerns were compounded after she had to take him to the hospital for a swollen eye. It was during that trip that Marsh and her husband received the devastating news.

“I could read the doctor’s body language before they even said the words,” she said. “He said that, ‘Your son has a fast-moving aggressive tumor in the center of his brain.'”

What followed was an intensive treatment regimen that included surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy.

“We cycled one [of chemotherapy] and at the end of the first cycle, Blake had a toxic reaction to one of the chemotherapy drugs and went into cardiac arrest,” Marsh said. “That was directly correlated to one of the chemotherapy drugs.”

Then, on April 14, 2021, the brave little boy’s body couldn’t take it anymore. He died at 25 months old. And since then, Marsh has been forced to embark on an unfathomable journey of grief. Still, she remembers him as the happy, smiling baby he was and raises money for research into “this disease that Blake stole from me.”

“I want all this horrible pain I’m feeling, that something positive happens so that no other mother has to feel this. Because honestly, it’s so bad you’d really want to spare a stranger from it,” Marsh said. “[Blake]is the only reason I feel like I have to keep going, because I feel like I have to keep fighting for my son even though he’s not around.”

What is Pineoblastoma?

According to the Mayo Clinic, pineoblastoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that begins in the cells of the brain’s pineal gland, which is located in the center of your brain. This gland produces the hormone melatonin which is associated with controlling your natural sleep-wake cycle.

This disease can develop at any age, but it is more common in young children. Signs of pineoblastoma may include headache, drowsiness, and subtle changes in the way the eyes move.

Treatment for pineoblastoma can be very challenging and often involves surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, although other treatments besides surgery may also be recommended. The disease can spread in the brain and the fluid around the brain (cerebrospinal fluid), but it rarely spreads outside the central nervous system.

Understanding cancer in children

Advances in treatment over the past few decades have resulted in 84 percent of children with cancer now surviving five years or more, according to the American Cancer Society. This is an increase of 58 percent compared to the mid-1970s.

RELATED: Chemotherapy’s Long-Term Effect on Kids: 8-Year-Old Boy Scout Phenom Lilly Bumpus Beat Cancer Like a Baby, But Still Deals Brutal Treatment Side Effects

But according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, more than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors have serious health problems because of current treatment options, and only 4 percent of the billions of dollars spent on cancer research and treatments each year go toward treating childhood cancer in the United States. United States. Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer, while hundreds of drugs have been developed exclusively for adults.

dr. Elizabeth Raetz, director of pediatric hematology and oncology at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, reminded us in an earlier interview that there is still reason for hope.

“There are also targeted treatments and different immunotherapies that have been studied in adults and now have moved into clinical trials for children and there is a lot of excitement in the community about that,” Dr. Elizabeth Raetz to SurvivorNet.

Still, navigating a child’s cancer diagnosis can be tricky.

Jayne Wexler’s son battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is now dealing with heart disease as a side effect of chemotherapy. In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Wexler explained that in addition to the regular worries of parents, having a child with cancer means living with a whole new world of fears.

The Impact of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis on the Whole Family Jayne Wexler Shares Her Story

“My husband and I will always have anxiety,” she said. “I don’t think we can ever let that go. Just when he was fine, he had a relapse, and then he had the bone marrow transplant… so there’s always some kind of concern.

RELATED: “I Try to Stay Strong, But Sometimes You Have to Cry”: Playing the Role of Cancer Caregiver and Mother

Wexler admits that she tries to live for every day, but understandably it doesn’t always come easy.

“And I try — you hear people say this — that we should live each day and be grateful for what we have,” Wexler said. “And it’s hard to remember that when you’re being overtaken … it’s very hard to just enjoy the moment because we just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”

Losing a loved one to cancer

Grief is an inevitable – and essential – part of the healing process after the loss of a loved one to cancer. And there’s certainly no way to deal with it, but Doug Wendt shared his thoughts on the grief in an earlier interview with SurvivorNet after he lost his wife Alice to ovarian cancer.

“I don’t want to go any further; I really want to move forward”: Doug Wendt on being a caregiver and tragically losing his wife to ovarian cancer

“We’re never moving forward, I don’t even think I want to go any further, but I do want to move forward,” Wendt said. “That’s an important distinction, and I encourage anyone going through this journey as a caregiver and then facing loss to think very carefully about how to move forward.”

The journey of grief looks different for everyone, but therapy and support groups can also be great options to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that time doesn’t heal everything, but it certainly helps.

In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Camila Legaspi shared her own advice about grief after her mother died of breast cancer. For her, therapy made all the difference.

“Therapy saved my life”: after losing a loved one, don’t be afraid to ask for help

“Therapy saved my life,” Legaspi said. “I was going through a really intense anxiety and depression at that time. It just changed my life because I was so exhausted by all the negativity that was going on. Going to a therapist made me realize that there was still so much left to do. me, that I still had my family, that I still had my brothers and sisters.’

Legaspi also wanted to remind people that while it can be an incredibly difficult experience to process, things will get better.

“If you lose someone, it’s very, very, very hard,” Legaspi said. “I’m so glad I talked to my therapist. Shut up and you’ll be fine. Whatever happens, it will be fine.”

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical assessment process.

Abigail Seaberg, a recent graduate of the University of Richmond, is a reporter in Denver. read more

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