Saskatoon family raising funds for 8-year-old’s ‘bucket list’ after brain cancer returns

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A Saskatoon family's GoFundMe page has already raised $18,000 towards Ben Sawatzky's goals, which include skiing at Lake Louise and seeing the Oilers play. Rebekah Lesko with the story – Feb 19, 2018

At just eight years old, Ben Sawatzky has made a bucket list of the things he still wants to do.

Ben was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in April 2016.

READ MORE: Saskatoon mom with terminal cancer continues to check things off her bucket list

He underwent brain surgery and developed posterior fossa syndrome from the surgery, losing the ability to walk and talk for weeks.

“Besides the terrible cancer, now we had a child who was dancing and skating a week ago who [now] needed to be diapered and fed through a tube,” explained Chad Sawatzky, Ben’s father.

He slowly regained his abilities, and then underwent radiation and chemotherapy until June 2017. He still struggles with balance and has a facial nerve palsy, causing one side of his face to droop.

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When the Children’s Wish Foundation granted the family of six a trip to Disneyland last fall, things started to take a turn for the better for Ben.

Until last Monday, when another tumour was found during a routine MRI.

“Surgery wasn’t a great option for him. His type of cancer is a very aggressive growing tumour, and what we decided to do is palliative chemo,” said Ben’s mother, Carla Sawatzky.

“You carry that hope that it can’t touch him a second time. He’s already gone through enough and overcome so much stuff that you can’t ask an 8-year-old to go through more than what he’s already gone through,” Chad said.

The tragic news sparked the idea of a bucket list, which includes getting a mohawk haircut, skiing at Lake Louise and attending an Edmonton Oilers game.

It all started quite simply with a fundraising goal of $1,000, but Ben’s GoFundMe page was nearing $18,000 on Saturday afternoon, helping the family add a Disney cruise to the list.

“We thought we can sit around and be sad, or we can make sure he has a great life,” said Carla.

“There’s no curative plan for what’s happening. It’s more of a palliative plan,” Chad said. “For us, quality of life is huge for him. He’s still 8 years old.”

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READ MORE: College student drops out to help his dying best friend tackle bucket list

The family said they are extremely grateful for all the support and plan to cross off activities in the coming months, soaking up time together as a family.

“You learn from him that things are tough, but you still can be an amazing young person,” Chad said. “That’s who he was before, but you just see it more now because he’s gone through so much.”

Devin Sauer / Global News

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