Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 14, 2002

Brandon Rehman: a young boy's journey with illness

By Julie Yurek

Two years has passed since Brandon Rehmann of Winsted was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

His ordeal has been painful, with injections, side effects of treatment, and tests, yet the family tries to look to the future.

"He's an inspiration to us all," his mother, Michelle Rehmann, said.

Recently, Brandon was able to meet some members of the Twins baseball team when he was a "practice buddy," Michelle said.

"Brandon was on the field while the team practiced, and during breaks the players came over to meet him and sign his baseball and yearbook," Michelle said.

Brandon, Michelle, and Jon Guggemos, of Winsted, Brandon's "best, best friend," according to Brandon, stayed for the game after the practice. Brandon also received a bag of "goodies" with Twins memorabilia, Rehmann said. "It was very exciting and kind that the team went out of their way to make a day in our lives so special."

Guggemos, or "Guggie," as Brandon calls him, is Brandon's closest friend. He drives the family to and from the many doctor's appointments at Children's Hospital, and accompanied Brandon and Michelle to Disney World in April 2001. The trip was Brandon's wish from the Make a Wish Foundation, Rehmann said.

Discovery of a tumor

Brandon's tumor was found shortly before his ninth birthday in October 2000.

Since kindergarten, Michelle had taken her son to doctors for his vision, she said.

Before the diagnosis, Michelle had taken him to numerous doctors, and finally, a specialist at Park Nicollet ordered an MRI, which revealed the tumor behind his eyes.

He had surgery Oct. 24, 2000 which removed only part of the malignant tumor, said Rehmann.

"The tumor will never be able to be completely removed because part of the tumor has grown into glands in his brain," Rehmann said.

After the surgery, Brandon started chemotherapy in December 2000 and continued for nearly a year, November 2001.

Brandon experienced several bad side effects due to the chemo including constipation, sensitivity to touch, vision loss in his right eye (he can only see motion in it now), and weight loss, Rehmann said.

As the end of his chemo treatments neared, Brandon began having episodes of numbness in his hands, slurred speech, and vision problems such as blurriness and whiteouts.

Brandon was hospitalized, underwent tests, and even went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a second opinion, but a cause was never determined, Rehmann said.

During the chemo, "a cystic component" grew inside the tumor, which affected Brandon's optic nerve and pituitary gland, she said.

As a result of the cystic component, Brandon requires a Lupron shot, which is given monthly in his leg until he turns 13. Lupron is for "precocious puberty," Rehmann said.

He also takes a pill called Synthroid for his thyroid, which he will have to do for the rest of his life, she said.

Soon Brandon will require weekly growth hormone shots, also in his leg, for the rest of his life, Rehmann said.

Present, but stable

Currently, Brandon's tumor is stable, Rehmann said. The family will reassess the situation at the beginning of next year, she said.

The tentative plan is for Brandon to begin radiation treatments to try to continue shrinking the tumor. However, there are "several long term side effects that would be much worse for Brandon than the stability that we have now," Rehmann said.

Brandon, who turned 11 Sunday, attends fifth grade at Lester Prairie Schools. Due to his illness, he has missed a lot of school, but he is working with an academic therapist at Children's Hospital twice a week to get caught up, Rehmann said.

Another obstacle that Brandon faces is repair to his teeth, which were damaged from chemo, Rehmann said. Brandon will require many dental exams to repair the damage.

Due to costs incurred from Brandon's illness, the trust fund at Community Bank Winsted has been re-opened to help the family with medical, dental, and school related costs. Brandon's insurance will not cover his dental needs. The fund was opened at the time of Brandon's surgery.

Donations may be sent to Community Bank Winsted, Brandon Rehmann Fund, PO Box 130, Winsted, MN 55395.

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