KENNEDY - Samuel Abbott III, known to friends and family as Sam, is on the road to recovery.
Sam is a 32-year-old, highly functioning autistic man with a positive spirit who was diagnosed with a brain tumor May 31. The tumor, located on his brain stem, was eventually specified as stage 3 ependymoma, a rare, cancerous brain tumor.
Sam and his mother, Annette Abbott, had worked at Bob Evans Restaurant for 12 years and 18 years, respectively. On May 31, Sam felt ill and called in sick to work. When his mother returned home from work, she found Sam lying on the floor of their Kennedy home.
Sam Abbott and his mother, Annette Abbott, at their home.
P-J photo by Daniel Swanson
"He had no recollection of how he had reached the floor or how long he had been there," Annette said.
Sam's collapse initiated what would become a life-changing diagnosis.
Annette immediately dialed 911, and Sam was transported to WCA Hospital where a CT scan was performed. According to Annette, doctors initially believed that bleeding of the brain was the cause of Sam's collapse. An ambulance transported Sam from WCA to the Gates Vascular Institute in Buffalo. According to Annette, Sam was not flown to Buffalo as doctors feared the pressure of flying would irritate the issues that caused the collapse.
Once an MRI and blood tests were performed in Buffalo, it was clear to doctors that Sam's collapse was caused by a brain tumor.
Sam was then transferred to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Gates, according to Annette.
On June 4, Sam underwent surgery to remove the 6.6 centimeter tumor. Annette praised the staff at the Gates Vascular Institute, adding that Sam's medical team took the time to call and update her every two hours on her son's status.
After the 12-hour surgery, Dr. Kenneth Snyder, MD, Ph.D., showed Annette photographs of the surgery and shared the good news: 95 percent of the tumor had been successfully removed. The remaining 5 percent of the tumor was not removed in hopes of minimizing nerve damage, as the tumor was located in an area that Sam's surgeons explained as a "high-rent district," where nerves that operate his eyes, nose and other important functions were located.
Although the surgery was a major success, Sam still needed to prepare for radiation in hopes of destroying the remaining 5 percent of the tumor. Rather than driving to and from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo to receive treatment, Sam has received all of his radiation at the Cancer Care of Western New York facility in Jamestown. According to Annette, not having to constantly drive to Buffalo made the treatments more manageable for both her and Sam.
BEATING THE TUMOR
On Dec. 6, Sam had completed his 30th radiation treatment and was preparing for an upcoming MRI which would determine if any cancerous cells were still present. The MRI showed no tumor, proving that the radiation worked. Sam will have an MRI every three months for the next two years, and as long as there is no recurrence, will most likely have beaten the tumor, according to Annette.
Sam's positive spirit and humor has remained alive, despite his condition. He affectionately nicknamed the team of surgeons responsible for checking his nerves responsible for the movement in his eyes, ears and legs during surgery his "puppet masters."
Jokingly, he also noted that it felt like he fell asleep at the beginning of summer and woke up at the end of summer, a reference to the months spent recovering from the surgery. Without seeing the scars on his head and body from the surgeries, one would be hard-pressed to guess what Sam has been through.
Because of the surgery to remove the tumor from his brain stem, Sam is missing a portion of bone on the back of his skull. During a post-surgery CT scan, Sam had a seizure caused by pressure to the sensitive area of his head, according to Annette. Sam currently experiences a few seizures every week.
Symptoms of ependymoma include frequent nausea, vomiting and headaches. Prior to his collapse, Sam had been enduring nausea and daily vomiting for almost a year.
Ependymoma is a type of brain or spinal cord tumor that starts in the central nervous system, affecting nerves which control functions of the eyes, arms and legs, as well as others. Ependymoma accounts for 5 percent of brain and spinal cord tumors in adults and 9 percent of childhood brain tumors. However, both adult and child cases are relatively rare. The causes for the cancerous tumors are currently unknown, but are being heavily researched.
Annette said that she wants to thank the people in the Falconer community and Falconer High School for their support. A previous fundraising campaign was extremely helpful to the Abbotts.
In a testament to the appreciation of its workers, Bob Evans Restaurant began a baked goods sale to benefit the Abbott family during the time of Sam's surgery and raised nearly $1,000 to help the Abbotts with medical and living expenses.
The Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network, known as CERN, is focused on improving treatments for ependymoma and researching cures for future patients. For more information about ependymoma research or to donate to CERN, visit www.cern-foundation.org.
Donations to the Abbott family can be sent to: 4110 Hopkins Road, Kennedy, NY 14747 or online to the "Super Sam" fund at fundrazr.com/campaigns/6emrc.