Sweet Home teen fights cancer for his life

Brandin Hugley, 13, of Sweet Home is fighting an expensive battle for his life, and his family is looking outward for help to meet bills that amounted to a quarter of a million dollars in the first two weeks.

Hugley is afflicted with Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a cancer affecting the lymph nodes, which filter blood. The cancer makes the lymph nods large and sore, killing them off. As a result blood is not filtered, and a cold becomes a fatal prospect. He is undergoing radical chemotherapy at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

“A couple of months ago,” Brandin said. “My neck just started to get a little bit stocky looking. I looked in the mirror one day, and I looked like I was on steroids.”

His father, Ronnie Hugley, said he was tired all the time.

Eventually doctors found two nodes the size of golf balls in his neck, three the size of golf balls in his chest and four in his stomach the size of tennis balls.

Brandin went to the clinic and was referred on to a specialist, who completed a biopsy. That was sent to a lab for testing. A call came later confirming that it was cancer, but the test did not reveal what type of lymphoma it was.

Brandin went to Kennewick for testing and typing. Once the cancer was identified, Brandin was immediately flown by helicopter to Portland where he underwent the first of his treatment, a treatment that is expected to last three years.

It is the fastest spreading and fastest-killing cancer known to man, Brandin said. He had already gone two months with no treatment, so doctors were in a hurry to start.

“I was on the verge of getting ready to get on my death bed,” Brandin said.

Brandin is continuing his chemotherapy, but he also is hospitalized whenever he has a fever. Over Christmas, Brandin spent eight days in the hospital.

Doctors are planning a bone marrow transplant by the end of the month.

As he continues his treatment, Brandin can expect to stay out of the hospital for longer periods of time. After three years of treatment, he has a 75 percent chance of recovery, with a 25 percent chance of recurrence.

The illness has stressed him and his family.

Brandin called his father during his hospital stay over Christmas and told him he was scared, Brandin’s grandmother Betty Hugley said. “It was very, very traumatic for a 13-year-old to have to face something like this.”

“I just live my life day to day,” Brandin said. “I try to be happy as best I can.”

Brandin looks for support, hangs out with his family and friends, and even rides his bike sometimes contrary to doctors orders, he said.

Brandin said he’s not really scared now.

“I know if I’ve got a problem, they’ve got the medical facilities,” Brandin said. “If I just died, it wouldn’t bother me. I’ve had a good life. I’ve done a lot of things, seen a lot of places.”

Brandin believes he’ll make it though, although time seems to take a lot longer to pass.

The doctor told him attitude makes a big difference, Ronnie said. “If you’re down, that’ll drag you down. If people are thinking they’re not going to make it … chances are they won’t.”

“Family and friends, that’s what he looks forward to all the time,” Betty said.

“It’s a killer,” Ronnie said about dealing with his son’s cancer. “I’ve got to keep myself busy and keep my mind occupied as much as I can, but it never gets off of him. No matter how much hell I’m going through, he’s going through twice as much.”

“This is the love of our life,” Betty said. “We aren’t as sick, but our hearts are just torn up.”

Betty said their family has pulled together in support.

“We’re going to pull together and whip this,” Betty said.

When he’s in the hospital, that gets Brandin through, he said. “I get to come home. I’ve got my family waiting for me. When you’ve got family there, you’re used to them. It’s kind of boring.”

“When you’re in the hospital for days,” he said. “You miss family.”

“As long as family cares and you’ve got family, you feel like you’re going to whip it,” Betty said.

Ronnie and Brandin have stayed with Don and Betty Hugley since Brandin started treatment.

Ronnie and his family are musicians. Brandin has played drums and sang with the family’s country music band, Surefire. The family wanted to thank musicians from all over the area for their support.

Sunday, bands from around the Mid-Valley played an all-day benefit for Brandin at the Eagle’s Club in Albany.

The family also wanted to thank the Eagle’s Club for the space.

The Hugley family is setting up an account to help with medical expenses for Brandin. For more information or to help out, persons may call 367-2973.

Brandin has three brothers, Dustin, Justin and Prestin. He also has one sister, Lynita. His mother, Bonnie, resides in Tri-Cities, Wash.