Bailey Bennett, 5, of Niles, underwent surgery Jan. 18 to remove a malignant tumor from his brain. He is recovering at home with his family and sister, Shelby, on the right. Submitted photo

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Niles boy fights brain tumor

Published 5:33pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A 5-year-old Niles boy is at home this week recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from his brain.

Bailey Bennett, who attends kindergarten at Ellis Elementary in Niles, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor on Jan. 17.

Doctors discovered the walnut-sized mass after performing an MRI at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.

The MRI was done because Bennett had been sick for a couple months with vomiting and headaches, according to Bennett’s aunt, Megan Bennett.

Upon finding the tumor, doctors scheduled emergency surgery to remove the tumor the following day.

The surgery, which lasted five hours, was successful.

“He progressed very well, and everything is going the way we hoped it would,” Megan said. “He hasn’t had some of the side effects doctors warned us about.”

Doctors told the family the surgery could affect Bailey’s speech and balance. Bailey’s balance has been affected slightly, Megan said, as he leans a little to the right. His speech remains unaffected.

“They said some kids don’t talk for weeks afterwards, so it was amazing that he came out talking,” Megan said.

Bailey’s parents, Andy and Stefanie, were too emotional to talk for the article. Megan said Bailey’s parents want to thank everyone who has helped them through this tough time.

“I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for them,” Megan said.

Bailey has been in good spirits during physical therapy sessions following the operation. He even had a present for the tooth fairy after surgery.

“When he was in recovery, he told his mom he felt something loose in his mouth. He reached in and pulled out a baby tooth,” Megan said. “He is the strongest little guy I’ve every seen. It is astonishing the strength and bravery he has shown through all this.”

Bailey returned home Tuesday. He will be back in the hospital in two weeks for further evaluation.

Doctors told the family about 1,000 kids are diagnosed each year with the tumor Bailey has, called primitive neuroectodermal.

Doctors say there is a 75 percent chance everything will be good in five years. Bailey will have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The family believes Bailey shares a special bond with Andy and Megan’s mother, Sheryl, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2006.

Sheryl had a dream that Andy and Stefanie were going to give birth to a boy with “Grandpa Bailey’s eyes.” The dream came before Sheryl knew Stefanie was pregnant.

Bailey was born three months to the day after Sheryl passed away. They named him Bailey after Sheryl’s maiden name.

“We know our mom was there with Bailey during surgery, kissing him and hugging him,” Megan said.

Family members are in the process of organizing with Niles Community Schools a brain cancer awareness day in Bailey’s honor. They will be asking students to donate 25 cents to a dollar. They are also asking students to wear grey in Bailey’s honor. Grey is the official color of brain cancer awareness through the American Cancer Society.

Northside will hold the fundraiser Feb. 9, while Howard and Ellis will have it on Feb. 10. Other Niles schools may also participate.

An account entitled “Benefit for Bailey” has been set up at area Teachers Credit Unions. Donations can be made there.

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