May 1, 2019, would become the last normal day for Chrissy and Jake Rodart. Earlier that week, their 5-year-old son, Wyatt, began experiencing painful headaches that would leave him exhausted. What they thought would be a quick visit to the pediatrician led to an urgent trip to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, CA, a 2.5-hour drive from their home in Taft, CA. On Thursday, May 2, the family was given the unthinkable news that Wyatt had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). They were told that their charming, innocent child had just 9 months to live.
As they sat there in the hospital room, still trying to process this news, the doctor then curtly informed Chrissy that “proceeding with a biopsy would not save Wyatt, but it will save children in 10 years.” The family was horrified. Disgusted to learn that over the years there had been no progress in treatment, they went home feeling hopeless.
By May 22, having opted not to do the biopsy, Wyatt began a 13-round radiation treatment with a team at the University of California, San Francisco. By then, Chrissy had come to a very firm conclusion, “Our challenges will not defeat our intent to live this life.” The family began to focus on two things: making incredible memories each and every day, and fighting this monster called DIPG.
After Wyatt’s radiation treatments, the family began to look for a clinical trial. They reached out to several doctors throughout the United States, but were only contacted by Dr. Carl Koschmann of Michigan Medicine, who had also treated Chad Carr. His only requirement for the trial was that Wyatt must give a tissue sample. After much consideration, the Rodart family decided to move forward with the biopsy. Had they done the biopsy initially, Wyatt would not have qualified for the trial.
Currently, the Rodart family travels to Michigan every 9 weeks for an MRI and lab work. Wyatt is tougher than ever and has enjoyed several milestones over the past few months, like throwing the first pitch at a Dodger’s game and meeting his favorite race car drivers. During their 9th visit to Michigan for Wyatt’s clinical trial, Chrissy had the opportunity to connect with Tammi Carr. “We were able to sit down and talk. Really talk – the way you can only do with someone who understands what you’re going through,” said Tammi.
After learning that baseball is Wyatt’s favorite sport, Tammi was able to arrange a hangout with University of Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich. “Coach Bakich spoiled Wyatt and made sure to put a smile on his face,” said Chrissy. “It was a wonderful afternoon and helped us keep our minds off things for awhile.”
Also while in Michigan, Chrissy was able to talk to Dr. Koschmann about something else that had been on her mind. Knowing the dismal statistic that only 1% of government funding goes toward pediatric cancer research, she was curious about how he was financially able to run his lab. “He said he is primarily supported by private donors, NIH grants, and foundations like ChadTough. He was grateful that I asked. Taken aback a little actually. I said, ‘I want my people to help because my boy needs a cure.’”
Chrissy returned home and sprung into action. On Friday, September 27, the Taft City School District hosted a walkathon that brought out more than 240 participants. The very next day, the Rodart family hosted their own virtual RunTough with all proceeds going to support the ChadTough Foundation and the fight toward finding a cure.
Chrissy is more determined than ever to take on DIPG the same way Wyatt lives his life – with spunk, courage, and joy. “While we face the unimaginable, we are fortunate that decisions have led to a path we feel confident with. Wyatt brings brightness to our world and reminds us to find beauty in all things. He lives in the moment. We should all #LiveLikeWyatt.”
-Jen DeGregorio, Director of Communications of ChadTough