Graduation dream realized: Alexus Stewart, 16, receives posthumous degree

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

RESERVE — Alexus Stewart never let a brain tumor get in the way of her schoolwork or dreams.

She battled the tumor since her diagnosis as a 5 year old.

So it was June 10 that Alexus, 16, was taken to the hospital and spoke with mother about her future plans.

Alexus Stewart

Alexus Stewart

Alexus’ mother, Krystal Placide, said education was important to her daughter.

“Alexus always wanted to finish school,” Krystal said. “Even on the way to the doctor (June 10,) she was telling me she wanted to be a nurse anesthetist instead of a pediatric nurse. I’m a nurse, too, so she wanted to follow what I do. She also told me she wanted to get married and have three kids.”

Unfortunately, Alexus died the next day, the result of complications from the tumor pressing against her brain.

A sophomore at East St. John High School, Alexus had been homeschooled since September because of her declining health.

“She was a good student,” Krystal said. “Even when Alexus was sick over the years and had to miss school, when she got back she would fall right back into place. She didn’t get behind, ever. She kept up her grades at home and at school.”

One of Alexus’ goals was graduating high school with her friends and classmates. Even though her life was cut short, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board honored her wish.

District 4 School Board member Patrick Sanders proposed a resolution at Thursday’s meeting recognizing Alexus with an honorary diploma.

Sanders, a family friend, said Alexus was a fighter, adding it’s only right to recognize her with an honorary diploma.

“She wasn’t a child that gave up,” Sanders said. “She endured her illness gracefully.”

Krystal said she was surprised and happy the School Board and students honored her daughter.

“A few of her classmates got together and they gave me a plaque,” she said. “They also promised that they would get their diplomas in honor of her. I was also given a plaque with a cap and tassel that they made. We got everything Saturday, that’s when her funeral services were.”

Krystal said the family discovered Alexus’ tumor by accident.

“She had something else going wrong with her and had to have a CT scan,” Krystal said. “When they did the scan, they noticed a quarter-sized tumor on her brain. That’s how we found out.”

The benign tumor was called desmoplasitc infantile ganglioglioma. The tumor, according to Krystal, is rare and formed from nerve cells.

Alexus’ tumor wasn’t cancerous, but its placement around her brainstem made it dangerous.

“As it was growing, it would effect a lot of important nerves that controlled her breathing, her heart and mobility,” Krystal said. “All of those things were affected throughout the last few months. She was on oral chemotherapy for the last three months, but it didn’t help.”

The last eight months of Alexus’ life, Krystal said, were a roller coaster as she underwent multiple surgeries.

Krystal said the tumor “really started to take charge,” adding her daughter was in a wheelchair, had blurry sight, hearing loss and fading motor skills toward the end of her life.

Despite the challenges, Alexus remained positive.

“She had a strong personality,” Krystal said. “She liked to bake, watch the cooking channel and make up tutorials. Alexus also loved to eat. Her favorite thing to eat was shrimp, and she loved going out to restaurants.”

Grandmother Constance Placide said Alexus loved life and had a passion for food.

“She told me she wanted to taste different foods,” Constance said.

“A few weeks before she died, she asked me to get feta cheese, because someone on Food Network was always talking about it. I bought it and she liked it and would put in on her salad, even though she found out it came from goats and smelled bad.”

Alexus’ passion for food began when she stared cooking with her grandmother when she was only 4. Constance said she still has a few brownies left from the last batch Alexus made before passing away.