Silverton High School freshman Tim Cain is a medical mystery.
Although he’s been to several doctors in the past two years, none can determine why he has a low white blood count and abnormality in his bone marrow.
An active teen who doesn’t complain, Tim sprained his ankle in sixth-grade. He kept playing basketball, tennis and golf – thinking his ankle had never properly healed.
The summer before his eighth-grade year he spent two weeks on the Mark Twain East Coast trip with classmates and then almost a month in Southern California with his family.
“When we were in Disneyland, he couldn’t walk and we would wait in line while he sat on a bench,” his mom Lydia Cain said. “There were some days he was so exhausted he stayed in the hotel room. We just thought he had done too much and was tired.”
Realizing there was something wrong, Lydia took Tim to see their family doctor, Shandra Greig.
That visit lead to more doctor visits – including a bone specialist, an infectious disease specialist and an oncologist – yet still no diagnosis.
“What we have learned is Tim has a hole the size of a nickel in his ankle bone,” Lydia said. “He has an iron deficiency and there is an abnormality in the bone marrow.”
His eighth-grade year, Tim had two surgeries where doctors removed some of his hipbone to fill the hole in his ankle. He couldn’t attend school from mid-September to mid-January, Lydia said, adding the school district provided tutors.
During an interview, Tim is quiet and rests his head on his arms. He said he goes to school and comes home and goes to sleep.
The hardest thing, he said, is not being able to do things with his friends.
Tom and Lydia said it’s been difficult to watch their son lose weight and deal with the pain. The hardest thing, they both said, is not having an answer to what is wrong with their son.
“It has been a long and hard year,” his dad Tom Cain said. “It is not something you want to see your 14-year-old son go through. This has impacted our entire family from our daily routines, to our family vacations and the way we spend time together. Everything that we make plans for is tentative and depends on how Tim is feeling that day as to if we do something or just stay home.”
Tom said Tim’s brothers – Ty, 20; Teagen, 4, and Thomas, 5 – understand Tim is ill. Ty has taken on more responsibility by helping with his younger brothers and going with his mom to Tim’s doctor appointments.
Both Lydia and Tom said it is difficult as parent to see Tim sick for so long and not be able to help.
“When your children are growing up and you are out playing sports with them almost every day from basketball, golf, tennis, etc. it is hard to all of a sudden not be able to go out front and shoot hoops or go to the golf course and have the special one-on-one time with your child,” Tom said. “Tim and I will still sit and watch a game to have some father son time but it is hard when you look over at him and can see that he would just love to have a chance to get out and play again.”
Both Tom and Lydia are thankful for the support family, friends and doctors have given them. Lydia posts updates on her Facebook page, laughing that’s her therapy to help her endure.
“Thank you to everyone that have served in the military,” Lydia wrote in November on her Facebook page. “I hope that one day Tim’s dream come true and he is able to join the ARMY. He is in need of extra prayers today.
“The Oncologist/Hematologist called and his is not getting better, his white blood count is very low. Today he is off to the hospital for back x-rays and they want to check his kidneys and liver. Today is hard day for me.”
Despite the hard days, she manages a smile and relies on her faith, friends and family to help her stay strong for her family.
“Lydia has been great through this whole thing. She is the one scheduling most appointments, keeping the school updated and still manages to put on a smile,” Tom said.
Lydia’s thankful for Tim’s teenage moments like telling her last minute he’s going to the Homecoming Dance, causing the two of them to rush to the store to get a tie, shirt and pants. She’s proud of how well he is doing academically in high school.
The day before Thanksgiving, Lydia said Tim was off to the doctor for another MRI, still searching for answers.
“We are trying to remain as normal as the Cains can be and we try to remain really positive,” Lydia said. “I am really thankful I live in a community that is so supportive and that has extended a smile and a hand for us.”