Mar 24, 2009

Tickle prays 'no more cancer'

by Amanda Sullivan, Life! Editor

Almost every child dreams of the day he or she will grow up. The ever-famous line, “Look, Mom, I’m a big kid now,” that hails from the Pull-up commercial tends to resonate with many children, all of which have dreams of growing up big and strong. Some hope to be nurses, magicians, a president or even a rock star. However, one little boy’s dream is much simpler than many other children’s aspirations – to some degree.

"I really don’t know (what I want to be when I grow up), because I am only ten,” Vincent Tickle from Ashland, Va. said. “But I do want to grow up.”

The last statement may seem odd, funny or cute to some people, but to Vincent the comment is filled with sincerity and hope. The average, Indiana Jones figurine loving, soccer ball playing, LEGO building boy was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer.

Vincent’s pediatrician found a lump on his neck during a routine check up on Nov. 21, 2008. The finding propelled Vincent into a whirl of needle pokes and tests, which revealed the cancer. The test results forced Vincent’s parents Todd and Jayme, along with his three siblings Susanne, 11, and twins Ansel and Annalyse, 5, to forgo a normal life.
However, despite the already tumultuous times, the Tickles were in for another twist along what would prove to be a very winding road. The cancer raging war on Vincent’s body is most common among adults and an incredibly rare find among children.

“We were originally told that this type of cancer was a very slow growing, non-invasive type of cancer that was usually found in adults over the age of 45,” Vincent’s mother Jayme Tickle said. “However, since then we have met with pediatric specialists that have informed us that in children this usually passive type of cancer in adults is a raging lunatic (in children). It is very fast growing and invasive in children, a complete 180 from the way it reacts in adults.”

The disease is so uncommon among children that less than 200 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Many doctors, including those at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., are unfamiliar with treatment techniques because of the cancer’s rarity. The inability of treatment at St. Jude’s forced the Tickle family to throw their lives into an upheaval as Vincent and Jayme temporarily relocated to Houston, Texas to receive treatment from Texas Children’s Hospital.

“We are very fortunate that God directed us to Texas Children’s, and believe that Vincent is where he is supposed to be for the best treatment possible,” Jayme said.

After Vincent and Jayme made the 20-hour commute to Houston, the Tickle’s were technically homeless in the new city. For the first few weeks, mother and son took up residence at Jayme’s aunt’s house in Cypress, Texas.

“It is a very nice place. Very flat. Warmer than in Ashland, but I like Virginia better,” Vincent said of his new location.

The Tickles commuted an hour each way on hill-less, 20-lane highways, that at times form a spaghetti bowl effect with how the streets criss-cross over and under each other. The car-laden streets feed directly into the hospital, leading them to the heart of Houston, where buildings try to touch the belly of the blue sky. Fortunately, about three weeks after transporting their lives to Texas, Vincent and Jayme qualified to stay at the Ronald McDonald House.

“It is a total family atmosphere here. Everything they do here is to make you feel welcomed, and that you are not alone in your situation,” Jayme said. “They encourage families to interact with each other by having group meals and activities. Being able to talk with other parents that are in the same boat as you are even if their child does not suffer from the same affliction that your child does is so very, very helpful.”

The Lone Star state’s, also known as the “friend” state, residents opened their hearts and hands to the Tickle family upon arrival. The Texas Children’s staff is all “really great,” according to Vincent. However, he does have a favorite radiology technician named Kelly Pase.

“Kelly always has a big smile and hug for me, and she makes me laugh.
Kelly is actually the person who brought me to Texas Children’s Hospital,” he said. “Her dad’s mom goes to Winn’s, where I go to church (in Virginia), and when she heard about me from her dad, she told him I should come down here where she works because they have other kids here being treated that have the same cancer I (have). She is really great, and I know God used her to get me here.”

The Tickle’s home-church of Winn’s Baptist Church has been very supportive of the family’s situation.

“I have never felt so loved and lifted up before in my life,” Jayme said. “I feel very blessed, even through this turbulent time in our lives, and I know other members of my family do as well.”

In addition to being supported by the church, the family also leans on Todd and Jayme’s parents, who are graciously willing to give of their time to help make the transition easier for Vincent’s siblings.

“Fortunately, my Mom and Dad live close by, about 5 minutes away, and they have been able to step in to care for the other three after school and as needed in my absence,” Jayme said. “Todd’s parents, who live near Blacksburg, Va. have also stepped in to help care for the children and make it easier on them and Todd.”

“The twins spent a whole week at Todd’s parents the second week Vincent and I were in Texas. This gave them something special to do, and helped them not to be so focused on missing their Momma,” she said. “I also have four wonderful brothers and their wives who live close by who helped as well. I am eternally grateful to our families.”
Even though the Tickles have solid support system of friends and family who help in as many ways as possible, the stress is ever-increasing. The family is being faced with a monumental financial strain due to medical and housing expenses.

“I was working as a substitute teacher before Vincent’s diagnosis and can no longer work due to all of the appointments, tests and treatments that I need to be there for,” Jayme said. “We are very grateful to have good health insurance for Vincent. However, in a catastrophic illness such as Vincent’s, the co-pays and deductibles add up very quickly, as well as unexpected expenses such as travel costs, special diet needs and everyday living expenses when out of town for treatments.”

Due to Vincent’s treatment schedule, Jayme and Todd decided that the best option for Vincent’s education was to home school him because of the amount of classes he has and will be forced to miss. The decision has created a need for a computer with wireless capabilities as Vincent will be attending Liberty Academy On-line.

“Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. generously awarded Vincent a full scholarship for the program, a huge blessing to us all,” Jayme said.

The family’s relationship to Liberty is not solely based on Vincent’s acceptance into the on-line academy. Jayme attended Liberty University and graduated in 1992 with a B.S. in health sciences and psychology. She is currently working towards a Master’s of Education via the Distance Learning Program (DLP). Furthermore, Jayme’s father Don Crain is currently part of Liberty’s board of trustees. Additionally, Crain was among the first graduating class from Liberty Baptist Seminary.

In an effort to help offset some of the financial burdens, the Tickle family has established an assistance fund in the name of “Vincent J Tickle Assistance Fund c/o Winn’s Baptist Church” at Wachovia bank. The fund can be accessed from any branch of the bank.

“All of the funds go directly to an account with Vincent’s name on it. There are no fees and no taxes taken out on any gifts given and Vincent receives all the benefits from those gifts,” Jayme said.

“Our most immediate need would have to be for prayer, we covet all the prayers that we can get on behalf of our Vincent,” she said. “We truly believe that prayer changes things, and that it can work in this case as well.”

Vincent is not blind to the dangers of his type of cancer, but through the experience he has learned to keep a positive outlook.
When asked if there was anything he wanted to say to Liberty students, he said, “Thank you for all of the support, and I hope you never have to get cancer,” Vincent said.

For more information on Vincent and his family, visit his Caring Bridge blog at

Contact Amanda Sullivan at


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