A little more than a year ago, 11-year-old Caryn Tucker, of Destrehan, was a successful gymnast who competed on the balance beam and uneven bars and had just won a first-place ribbon for her efforts. But last November, Caryn was diagnosed with a deadly brain cancer that has an average survival time of a year.
So far, Carynís family says she has beaten the odds thanks to prayer and a special diet they created.
Gilomatosis cerebri is hard to treat because of the way it spreads. There is no solid mass or tumor for the doctor to see and the cancer spreads like a spiderís web throughout the brain, making it inoperable.
Carynís mother, Brandy Tucker, said the family was shocked when they first discovered that Caryn had cancer.
"Thatís the only word that I think completely explains it," she said. "Her symptoms did not seem that severe. No one was expecting what the MRI showed."
Because of the grim outlook when she was first diagnosed, the family prayed for guidance on how they could help her. As they prayed, they discovered a lot of research on alternative treatments.
"We used Google, YouTube, books - you name it, we did it," Tucker said. "What the doctors offered wasnít good enough for us. We knew there had to be more out there. It was just countless hours of us looking things up, finding something good and diving deeper into that.
"A lot of wonderful people also send us articles. I donít want it to sound like we did everything - we have a great support system."
One of the main things the family learned is that sugar feeds cancer, so they cut it from Carynís diet. They purchased an alkaline water system and a Norwalk Juicer. Caryn started drinking five to six organic juices a day so her body could get the nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants she needed to fight cancer.
The family also decided to put Caryn on a completely organic, vegan diet and gave her whole food supplements daily to make sure she received all of the things she needed to stay healthy.
While the diet worked for a while, the cancer eventually progressed after a year. However, Tucker firmly believes that juicing and Carynís previous diet were key factors in her health.
"Now weíre participating in a phase one trial at St. Jude for high grade gliomas. They think that theyíll have success controlling these types of tumors by combining two different chemotherapies that are already in use," Tucker said.
The family is also putting Caryn on a ketogenic diet.
"There have been people who have had success beating cancer by eating this way. The point of this diet is to starve the cancer cells," Tucker said. "Cancer cells feed on sugar. With this diet, you starve your body of sugar completely."
That means not even eating healthy sugars from fruit.
"Normal cells can take fat and turn it into ketones to feed itself," Tucker said. "A cancer cell is not capable of doing this. It has to have glucose to survive. The idea is to get your body in this ketogenic state where the cells are turning fat into foodÖthereby starving the cancer."
Caryn, who will turn 12 on Jan. 16, has stayed busy throughout her ordeal. She started a non-profit organization whose donations assist her in her fight and with her treatments. However, Tucker says that Caryn wants to drastically increase the size of her organization so that she can help all children fighting cancer.
"We canít wait for the day that cancer is just a zodiac sign," Tucker said. "Spread the word. We can all make a difference. We can help Caryn and many others win their battle."
One local organization did help spread the word last month. Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers donated $1 for every new "like" Carynís Facebook page, "Prayers for Caryn," received in December.
"We heard about Carynís story, about her courageous spirit, and we wanted to help out," Chad Dudley, the managing partner at the firm, said.
Company spokesman Deanna Cuevas says that Dudley DeBosier donates to a charity each month, but in December Carynís story hit home.
"We did the Facebook campaign because not only was this a way to raise money, it is also a way to spread the word about her organization that she hopes to continue," Cuevas said. "We are eager to help Caryn raise money to help her family in their time of need and for the future when she hopefully is well."
Carynís Facebook page currently has more than 7,500 likes.
"It is so amazing to see this many people come together to support Caryn," Tucker said of the Facebook support. "Weíve seen a lot of good in people. The people who follow her page would do anything that they could to help us. People really fall in love with these children."
While Tucker said the Facebook page has helped bring Caryn the prayers she needs to fight cancer, it has also helped spread awareness.
"There are many children fighting cancer and thereís also very little research for childhood cancer," Tucker said. "We need to get the word out. Pink has become a grand thing and everyone knows about October and breast cancer. We need to turn the world gold in September for childhood cancer."
Tucker said because children face a huge disadvantage when it comes to fighting cancer, they have so much to lose.
"Awareness is the only way things will change and this page will be a part of that movement," Tucker said.
To help with fundraising efforts contact Nicole Broussard at (504)495-8404 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.