Wyatt Is Determined to Beat the Odds and Tackle Cancer
Diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer called desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), Wyatt Pope has handled recurrent treatments with grace and courage.
When 10-year-old Wyatt Pope walked onto the field of Bobby Dodd Stadium, he stood among some of his heroes: dozens of student athletes from the Georgia Institute of Technology football team. As the honorary Junior Jacket Reporter, he was part of the action on game day, sharing his story with the Georgia Tech sideline reporter and cheering on his dad’s alma mater as they took on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
“Wyatt and all of his brothers—Gavin, Kaden and his twin, Colton—are Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fans, so Wyatt was excited and honored for this opportunity,” says Carrie, Wyatt’s mom.
What Wyatt didn’t realize was that all of the players and coaches on the field that day, as well as the thousands of fans in the stadium, were rooting for another hero. This hero may be a bit smaller, but he’s just as determined as his beloved Yellow Jackets. That hero was Wyatt.
Holding out hope
Like so many other Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta patients who are taking on illness and injury with incredible courage, Wyatt is bravely battling a rare and aggressive cancer called DSRCT, which causes tumors to form in the abdomen.
“The statistics that were shared at the time of his diagnosis were not encouraging,” Carrie says. “But I just hold onto what his oncologist [Bradley George, MD, a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at Children’s] said: ‘There is no reason he can’t be one of the 15% who survive.’”
Since he was diagnosed in 2016, Wyatt has had multiple rounds of chemotherapy, many surgeries and a month of radiation treatment, as well as immunotherapy. “It has been a long and difficult three-and-a-half years, but Wyatt has handled it all with grace and courage,” says Carrie.
The Popes had a short reprieve from the heavy burden of childhood cancer in 2018 when Wyatt’s scans came back clean. But just a few months later, the cancer returned, and more treatments were necessary to target the tumors that had appeared on Wyatt’s liver, including chemotherapy and cryoablation procedures (using extreme cold to destroy cancerous tissue).
Living for today
“As he underwent treatment and was battling hard, Wyatt and I had a few deep, heart-to-heart conversations in his hospital room,” Carrie says. “The one that will forever be in my heart was when he asked me if he was going to die. I immediately answered—to this day not knowing where my words came from—that we all are going to die someday.
“Not one of us knows exactly when that will happen, and we have to live for today. I told Wyatt that he needs to believe that his body is healthy and will be strong again; that the power of his mind is more powerful than the cancer in his body; that he is not alone in this fight, and I would be with him at all times. I told him that he is so strong and the medicine he has to take makes him feel very sick, but that it is needed to get rid of the tumors in his body. Wyatt handled this talk with grace and so much wisdom. He is incredible.”
Each year, the specialists at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s diagnose more than 475 new cancer patients—that’s more than one new child diagnosed with cancer each day.
And it’s because of these patients—because of kids like Wyatt—that we come together each year as a community to celebrate Children’s Cape Day.
Honoring our heroes
This annual event, held each October since 2014, is an opportunity to honor the many small-but-mighty superhero patients at Children’s who are putting up the good fight. Like the athletic heroes we all admire who give their all on the playing field, kids like Wyatt overcome unbelievable challenges each and every day.
“We feel so fortunate to live so close to this hospital,” Carrie says. “I pray to God on a daily basis to bless these individuals for their wonderful gift to help heal the sick.”
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