Austin Wade’s Cancer Battle- His mother’s view

My name is Denise Diercks.  On August 15, 2000, I was blessed with a son, Austin Wade.  This little baby completely changed my life, as I am sure that any first time parents can understand.  I have never loved anyone more than Austin.  He was my world.  Austin was easy to love because he was loving, caring, respectful, polite, and a friend to everyone.  To say that we were close would be a huge understatement.  Like I said, I was blessed.    

     Before Austin was 10, I started to notice changes in his balance and handwriting.  He had constant headaches.  His primary care physician did testing for different things with no results found.  When he started the 5th grade at Carterville Intermediate School, his teachers also noticed changes in his academic and physical abilities.  They called me and let me know that their findings made them believe that he needed to see a neurologist.  Austin’s physician ordered a CT scan.  As we were leaving the hospital, the radiologist stopped us and sent us directly back to the doctor’s office.  That’s when our whirlwind began.  Austin was diagnosed with a Glioneuronal Tumor.  This is stage 4 brain cancer which is a cross of 2 different more common stage 4 cancers, one that invades deep into the brain and one that travels down the spinal cord. 

     Over the next year and a half Austin battled hard.  He had 3 brain surgeries removing the recurrent tumor, 30 days of radiation, constant chemotherapy that was changed 3 times, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, 3 lumbar punctures, countless MRIs, hearing tests,  heart scans, kidney and liver tests, 2 different ports put into his chest, stem cell extraction, and constant neurology testing.  This does not even include how sick the chemo made him and the fact that his red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets were often at or near zero.  In the last months of his life, seizures became a frequent issue.   This resulted in many trips to St. Louis, some of these for days or weeks at a time. 

     I was unable to work while being the sole caretaker of my sick child and, as a single mother, mine was the only income.  Besides the everyday home bills that never stop, there were many new expenses.  We could not always eat at home because we were traveling, and eating out is very expensive.  We frequently had to stay overnight in a hotel so that we could be where we needed to be on time.  It cost at least fifty dollars for gas for each trip we took to go back and forth to St. Louis.  Finally, there were medications and services not covered by insurance that had to be paid.  These expenses were on top of Christmas and birthday gifts that were needed even more now than ever.

     Throughout our trials we met many other children from infants on up that were fighting similar battles.  A common theme among these children was their positive, friendly, optimistic outlook on life throughout their struggles.  These were some of the bravest people that anyone would be blessed to meet.  Another thing that you couldn’t miss on the 9th floor of St. Louis Children’s Hospital was the look of worry and despair in the eyes of their parents.  There is nothing worse than watching your child suffer and knowing that there is nothing you can do except pray.

     Austin’s desire to help others was prominent even when he was very ill.  He was always friendly and supportive to the other children at the hospital.  When given a choice of chemotherapies, Austin wanted to choose the one that was just in a trial phase that would help other children in the future, instead of the one that would most likely help him the best.  (I overruled that)  His positive, determined attitude inspired many people in their own lives.

     During his struggles Austin tried to maintain as “normal” a life as possible:  going to school when able, doing the work at home when he couldn’t go, maintaining an A average, playing Tri C baseball, watching the Cardinals, and even wanting to help me around the house.  Austin never wanted special treatment, because above all he was still an 11 year old boy who just wanted things to be back to normal.

     On February  29, 2012 the cancer took Austin’s life.  While dealing with the devastation of losing Austin, we came up with the idea to honor him by creating a foundation that was just like him.  Our idea was to represent his heart:  loving, helping others, and always trying to give a hand to those in need and to put a smile on their face.  If it were not for the many benefits and donations of family, friends, and community I don’t know how we’d have made it through.  Even though I have been a Christian my entire life, my faith was reaffirmed by the outpouring of love toward our family.  Therefore, we would like other people to feel the touch of an angel during tough times like we did. 

     From this, the Austin Wade Foundation was born.  The goal of the foundation is to financially assist families who have a child currently battling cancer in Southern Illinois, so that they know that no one fights alone.

     We have already been able to help some of these families in need since August 2012.  We are hoping to raise enough funds to aid many more.  Our dream is that the Austin Wade Foundation can grow to support a much bigger area, and in turn help many more children. 

     For those that need assistance, there is a short qualifying process.  We are keeping it simple so not to put any extra burden on the families who have enough on their plate.  Those that qualify will be sent a check to use as they deem necessary.  As I explained earlier, there are many extra expenses involved in caring for a child with cancer.  No two situations are exactly the same.  That is why we let the families determine where and how the money should be spent.

     We have kicked off our fundraising by hosting a local golf scramble in August that will be an annual event.  We are sellingt-shirts and wristbands that promote the Austin Wade Foundation.  Donations are being accepted at Old National Bank in Marion, Carterville, and Carbondale.  We will always be grateful for all donations as well as any help spreading the word about our foundation.  

     On a personal note,  when you have had someone close battling cancer, you know that it’s not just a battle, it’s a war.  It affects everyone and everything around you.  It turns your life upside down.  And if you think that pediatric cancer is just something that you see on television, you are wrong.  We have already helped children who live all over Southern Illinois.  Even in our small town of Carterville, 2 local intermediate school students  were battling brain cancer at the same time.  One was my son.  They both had radiation treatments on the same days.  They both had to fight the battle that most of us could never comprehend as children.  I am so proud of both of these incredibly brave kids.  I am blessed to have known them both. 

     Thank you for your time reading this, and please help spread the word about the Austin Wade Foundation.


“She needed help, so I helped her.”     -Austin Wade