The family of a pregnant Town of Tonawanda mother battling brain cancer had some encouraging news to share this week.
An MRI scan Wednesday at Roswell Park Cancer Institute showed no return of two tumors, allowing Kim Vaillancourt to continue carrying the baby boy she and her husband have named Wyatt Eli closer to his April 25 due date, said Kim’s sister Meghan Eisenhauer.
“The longer the scans come back clean, the stronger Wyatt grows,” she said. “Come that April 25 delivery date, he can go home right away because he’s considered a full-term baby then.”
Vaillancourt, a 1997 Tonawanda High School grad, was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma – the most aggressive stage of the disease – after suffering severe headaches in late December, just days after she and her husband, Phil, completed their adoption of three sisters. She underwent eight hours of surgery on Dec. 29 to remove the tumors on her left frontal lobe and brain stem.
“She’s super talkative now, which is great,” Eisenhauer said. “You go there and she’ll talk your ear off for three hours, where before she was just sleeping all the time.”
The sisters, Kamila, 10, Josie, 7, and Chalie, 6, on Dec. 23 officially joined the couple’s biological children, Ryan, 12, and Hailey, 11, after a ceremony in Erie County Family Court. The adoption was a dream come true after three years fostering them in their home.
Vaillancourt will continue to undergo an MRI every two weeks and her long-term prognosis is uncertain, but the family is hopeful she will be able to continue carrying Wyatt Eli – whose name means “little warrior sent by God” – to full-term.
Meanwhile, the family has been heartened by an outpouring of community support that Eisenhauer called “overwhelming.”
After their story first appeared Feb. 1 in The Buffalo News, the family began receiving offers from people locally and across the country for services such as tutoring, child care, house cleaning and meal preparation.
“It’s so surreal,” said Jenna Koch, a longtime family friend. “The outpouring of support the family has received from the community is amazing.”
A GoFundMe page created at gofundme.com/z2h9nhdw had raised $122,425 by Thursday afternoon. Koch started the page on Jan. 2 with a goal of $7,500 but has since raised more than 16 times that amount. A big boost came earlier this week when FOX News reported the story to a national audience.
On Wednesday, a woman from Florida came forward and purchased an 8-passenger Honda Odyssey minivan for the soon-to-be family of eight.
Most uplifting, however, has been the prayers offered for the family, Koch and Eisenhauer said.
“Even knowing that a family in Houston, Texas, is praying for them, or a family in California – their story has reached all parts of this country,” Koch said.
A benefit for the family will be held from 1 until 7 p.m. April 24 at Brounshidle Post, American Legion, 3354 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda. Tickets are $20 presale, or $25 at the door includes gift basket raffles, entertainment, a 50/50 split, and food and drink.
There also will be a euchre card game tournament at the benefit with prizes for the first- and second-place winners. Registration by April 22 is $30, which includes admission to the benefit. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 946-5753.
“Euchre is a pretty popular game in Tonawanda and Kim’s from Tonawanda, so we wanted to do something that was close to her roots,” Koch said.
The Peace Bridge on Saturday evening will be lit gray, the color for brain cancer awareness, in honor of Kim.
“They’re an extraordinary family who opened up their home to three children,” said Koch, who is also the City of Tonawanda Common Council president and arranged for the lighting. “Kim and Phil said they’re just an ordinary family, but they’re an extraordinary family. Kim’s strength and determination is so inspiring to so many people.”