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Hemelt: Joseph Carr, 7, brave despite brain tumor

While many children across the River Parishes are itching to get out of school to begin summer vacation, one LaPlace boy is anxiously plotting his return to the classroom.

Joseph Carr, 7, was diagnosed three months ago with a brain tumor and has been out of school since.

The first grader at John L. Ory School was making straight As at the time and has continued to keep up with his school work through assignments that are sent home.

If all treatments go as planned, according to family, Joseph will be able to return to the classroom in the fall as a second grader at his communication arts magnet school.

Joseph suffered with headaches and vomiting for three weeks when he arrived Feb. 12 at the emergency room of Our of Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge.

The news was especially shocking, mother Brandi Carr said, because the family did not have a history of brain tumors or cancer.

“The emergency room doctor came in and said, ‘I think you need to sit down. We found a mass in his head and he has to be admitted. We have to do an emergency shot tonight to relieve the pressure on his brain,’” Brandi said. “On Feb. 14 he had the surgery to remove the tumor. It went great. He came out of it really good. It was a tumor they had never seen before. It was two tumors in one and they didn’t have a name for it.”

From that point on, Brandi and her husband Michael have learned something new about brain cancer and tumors nearly every day, while also working to bring awareness to the community about the affliction, which can seemingly strike out of nowhere.

The message is especially timely now as May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

The American Brain Tumor Association is using the month to raise awareness, share education and information and take the first steps toward changing the brain tumor diagnosis experience.

The National Brain Tumor Society wants to help raise the call for new research and better treatments.

They say nearly 700,000 people are living in the United States with a primary brain tumor, an estimated 68,470 people will receive primary brain tumor diagnoses this year and the average survival rate for all malignant brain tumor patients is 34.2 percent.

It’s a story with national headlines and local faces.

In the River Parishes, many have already rallied to Joseph Carr’s side.

Support events include company crawfish boil fundraisers, school dress down days and the staff at Mabile’s donating their tips for a week in an effort to support Joseph and his family.

“It has helped tremendously,” Brandi said. “We are not alone in all of this.”

Joseph has gone through 30 radiation treatments and has been receiving chemotherapy for seven weeks.

He has to continue for another nine months.

“Joseph is looking forward to going back to school next year,” Brandi said. “He is a typical boy. He just wants to go outside and play with his friends. He is very thankful and appreciative of all the good things that have been going on for him.”

Those in the community can follow the Joseph’s Journey Fundraiser Facebook page or pledge support at the Joseph’s Journey page on gofundme.com.

The National Brain Tumor Society says an estimated 4,620 children will receive brain tumor diagnoses this year, and the average survival rate for all children with malignant brain tumors is 66 percent.

However, brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under 14 and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under 20.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.