Grain Valley first grader Brayden Williams has dealt with far more than a 7-year-old normally does, due first to premature birth and then brain cancer first discovered when he was just 1.
In October, tests showed the tumor in his head had grown back significantly. His mother Julie says he's cycled through all known treatments.
But for his birthday Saturday, he had a party that certainly wasn't normal either.
Brayden loves police, and his family thought it would be neat to have an officer – in this case, a family friend who's a private detective Lee's Summit – come over for cake and ice cream. That friend did make a couple calls to his law enforcement buddies, though.
“He's been following Brayden since the early days,” Julie Williams said of the friend, who was wanted to remain anonymous. “I knew there would be a couple officers, a couple motorcycles and vehicles.”
“For him to pick up the phone and make those calls, I had no idea they would make such a big deal about Brayden.”
Specifically, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office had 13 deputies show up, bringing along one of the department's tactical vehicles and a K-9 officer. A motorcycle crew rolled in bit after the gathering started. Members of the Grain Valley and Independence police departments also joined the party.
“We had no idea it was going to amount to that,” Julie said.
Brayden's reaction to the surprise party turnout?
“He was literally jumping up and down in the driveway,” his mother said, particularly referring to the motorcycle unit arriving. “He was really impressed. It was really something. I think he counted nine motorcycles.”
Brayden was born eight weeks premature via emergency Caesarean section.
“We weren't sure he was going to survive,” his mother said.
During a routine one-year follow-up to check his development as a premie, doctors first noticed the tumor. After a biopsy, they were able to treat it enough to hold off on surgery until Brayden was 5.
“We were lucky we found it when we did,” Julie said, “and then we weren't blindsided when he was 6 and started having seizures.”
Surgeons were able to remove most of Brayden's tumor when he was 5 but couldn't get all of it due to its dangerous location. Since the October test that showed a regrowth, Brayden's family was able to get into a clinical trial. Because of the medication he has to take, his mother said Brayden has become a bit more aware of his situation.
“He's had a lot of developmental delays,” she said. “He just recently started asking more questions. He's kind of learning he has cancer, and what that really means, because he's had to take pills. We tell him, 'You have to learn how to swallow them.'”
Brayden has three younger sisters. The oldest of them, who is 4, has also started asking questions about Brayden's health.
“Thankfully this option was here,” Julie said of the clinical trial. “It's kind of our last Hail Mary.”
He also now has one memorable party to recall.