Brent Shaw is a survivor. A brain tumor survivor. And his cat, Stormy, helped Brent get through some scary, lonely days.
When the American Brain Tumor Association asked him to draw a picture for their 2004 "What Happines Is...." Calendar, Brent drew a picture of his black furry feline friend.
Brent was 10 when he was diagnosed with the brain tumor in May of 2002. A Staunton fourth grader at the time, he went through eight weeks of radiation then an every six weeks chemotherapy program lasting 48 weeks.
The Shaws had moved out of the Staunton School district just before Brent got sick. But because he had attended there K through 3rd grade he was allowed to return to Staunton School starting 4th grade.
And he really wanted to return to school, even while he was taking treatment, but he couldn't keep up physically. After just a few hours in class, Brent became exhausted. And his blood counts dropped dangerously low where exposure to "normal childhood diseases" could be life threatening to him.
So Brent was home schooled for his fourth grade year while he completed his medical treatments. His weight dropped from 93 to 64 pounds and he lost all of his hair.
The little boy spent many days feeling sick, and frightened. The companionship that sustained him, cheered him and kept him going during that difficult time was his parents, Beth and Randy Shaw, and Stormy.
During one overnight at Riley Hospital for a chemotherapy session, Brent was approached by a social worker. She was passing out information regarding any child wanting to submit a drawing to the Brain Tumor Association for their 2004 calendar. Brent submitted his drawing in April. They just received the calendar a few weeks ago.
"I felt really happy about it." Brent said.
He has always loved to draw. While in 3rd grade, Brent's teacher sent a picture he drew in art class to a state children's art program. His drawing, from District 5, was on exhibition in Indianapolis with others called "The Many Faces of Art" for the Youth Art Month 2002.
"I like that my picture of Stormy is in a calendar with other kids' pictures who may have gone through what I have," Brent said. "And with a calendar, it can be seen for a year instead of the month my picture was displayed in Indianapolis."
Brent has survived. His weight is now 80.5 pounds and his hair has grown back.
"He got it buzzed," Beth said smiling, "But that's because that's just what he wanted."
Brent is returning to the classroom. Due to a large enrollment at Staunton this year, he's attending Forest Park Elementary now.
"He loves it there," his mother said. "They welcomed him with open arms and have been very supportive to Brent."
He's not yet up to full days. Three to three and a half hours a day is about all he can physically tolerate. But he's bright, inquisitive and likes to read.
"I'm a little behind," Brent said matter of factly, with no bitterness or self pity in his voice. "I'm trying to get caught up. I'm just a day behind, basically."
Brent passed his most important test recently. He got an M-zero reading on his last medical check-up. There's no evidence of the tumor in his head and there has been no metastasis or spread of cancer to any other part of his body. Brent will have a check-up every three months for a year then annually.
Brent's dad had a heart attack this summer. Randy, a boilermaker who works out of Union Local 374, just recently returned to work after being off for nearly three months.
"We take one day at a time," Beth said, when asked how they coped with everything. "In many ways we're very fortunate."
Proceeds from the Happiness is...Calendar will benefit the research and patient services programs of the American Brain Tumor Association. Calendars sell for $10 each and can be purchased by visiting www.abta.org.