2018-01-26 / Community News

Community rallies around ‘Super-Wy’

Infant, 2 months old, stricken with rare cancer
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Wyatt Sargent, 2 months old, of Buxton, has been diagnosed with an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, a rare form of cancer that accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all childhood tumors. A fundraising spaghetti support will be held to support the family, normally on the giving end of local aid. Wyatt’s mother Ashley is a police officer in Kennebunkport, his father Alex is an EMT in Scarborough, and his grandfather, Ted Sargent, is a police officer in South Portland. (Courtesy photo) Wyatt Sargent, 2 months old, of Buxton, has been diagnosed with an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor, a rare form of cancer that accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of all childhood tumors. A fundraising spaghetti support will be held to support the family, normally on the giving end of local aid. Wyatt’s mother Ashley is a police officer in Kennebunkport, his father Alex is an EMT in Scarborough, and his grandfather, Ted Sargent, is a police officer in South Portland. (Courtesy photo) When Ashley and Alex Sargent brought their first child together home from the hospital Nov. 14, he was absolutely perfect in every way.

Named Wyatt, the baby boy had bright eyes and a ready smile, and together with his big-brother Stephen, age 5, the family thought their Buxton home would be filled with laughter for years to come.

But laughter turned to tears only a few weeks later, when Ashley and Alex noticed that Wyatt was not smiling as much, and was barely moving his arms.

A trip to the neurologist followed, as did some frantic tests, and before the Sargents knew what was happening, Wyatt’s arms had become completely immobile and he was being rushed to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The diagnosis: Wyatt had an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor located on his spine between the C3 and C6 vertebrae. Its is a rare form of childhood cancer. Normally striking children age 3 to 4, it accounts for less than 2 percent of all childhood tumors.

“This is a very aggressive, highly malignant tumor,” Alex Sargent said on Tuesday, Jan. 23. “We’re talking, like, 12 new cases a year, if that.”

An operation at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston Dec. 17 removed the tumor, but days later two more were discovered growing in its place. On Monday, Wyatt underwent his first round of high-intensity chemotherapy. An operation was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 26 to have a shunt inserted into his skull to help relieve pressure, followed by a second round of chemo on Sunday.

Through it all, Wyatt has faced his battle with dogged determination, and a clear refusal to give in. Despite being unable as yet to communicate his zest for life, it’s clear Wyatt is a fighter — so mush so that the family has taken to calling him “Super-Wy.”

“He’s a little super hero in how he’s been handling everything, that’s for sure,” his father says. “He is a stubborn, very tough kid.”

The community has rallied around the Sargents, starting a GoFundMe page, scheduling benefit suppers, and selling Super-Wy T-shirts. The support, Alex says, has been incredible, and somewhat disconcerting. After all, the family is made up of dedicated public servants who are usually on the giving end of public aid.

Ashley is a police officer in Kennebunkport. Alex, an army veteran, is an EMT with North East Mobile Health Service, based in Scarborough. And grandfather Ted Sargent is a highly decorated police officer who has proudly served the people of South Portland for more than 28 years.

“It’s overwhelming, the amount of support that we’ve gotten,” Sargent said. “Honestly, we don’t know how to thank everybody. But saying thanking you isn’t the hard part. The hard part is actually keeping what’s been given. We are the type of people who are normally dedicated to giving back. That’s what we always want to do, we always want to help everyone else.”

But this time the Sargents are on the receiving end. Liz Darling of Maine Roofing, known for the toy drives she runs every Christmas season, has organized an event to benefit the family, given the enormous costs of Wyatt’s struggle.

The benefit supper will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at Willow’s Pizza, located at 740 Broadway in South Portland. South Portland police and fire personnel will be on hand serving the community in a different capacity as they take on the role of wait staff during the event. The night will also include a raffle and Darling says she is still looking for donated items to sell. She can be reached at 767-4243.

Meanwhile, the Sargents are just trying to get through each day, knowing they have a tough row to hoe that could last months and even years in medical and travel costs, as well as lost wages as they commute back and forth to Boston and fight by Wyatt’s side, while still caring for their other young son.

“I think this is the most stressed-out we’ve ever been, but we’ve been taking every day in stride,” Sargent said. “Every day is a new day and we look forward to the little victories. Every day there is always something good that happens. And we look forward to that.

“He’s eating again on his own, which is fantastic. And just yesterday he started smiling again,” Sargent said, of the biggest daily miracle to date.

“I haven’t seen our son smile for, like, three weeks — half his life. So, that was a good day. That was a big victory,” Sargent said.

Staff writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@inthesentry.com.

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