A 5-year-old boy fights cancer with devoted parents and a community in his corner
By Adam Hocking
UNITY — Declan Fisher is a normal 5-year-old boy. He is active — nonstop, actually, if you ask his parents — tough, sweet, bubbly, outgoing, and has a great smile.
“You just want to hug him. He’s a hugger. He’s very open, … really loves his brothers and sisters, loves to roughhouse, just really an active kid,” said Regina Fisher, Declan’s mother.
Regina and Ryan Fisher, Declan’s father, beam with pride when they talk about their son. He is a boy full of life, which makes his recent diagnosis all the more devastating. Declan has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that arises in the lymphatic tissue, part of the body’s immune system. Declan’s parents said the diagnosis has not slowed their son down much.
“He tries to be tough,” Regina said. “This hasn’t really fazed him much at all because he just kind of goes with the flow.”
“He’s very easy going,” Ryan added.
The path to Declan’s diagnosis was a long one. In early November of 2014, the Fishers were out to dinner, and Regina could tell that Declan’s neck was swollen. He went to urgent care the following day, Nov. 3, and initially it was suspected that Declan had mononucleosis, which can cause enlarged lymph nodes.
Tests continued until the decision was made to perform an excisional biopsy in March of this year, which revealed that Declan had cancer. For the Fishers, not having a diagnosis for months was trying.
“The roller coaster was frustrating,” Ryan said.
Regina was home with Declan the evening of March 19, when the diagnosis was made. She received a phone call telling her the news. Just as she got off the phone, Ryan came into the house with the Fishers’ three other children.
“I took him (Ryan) out to the garage and told him. … I think we spent the rest of the night crying, … trying not to let on to the other kids,” Regina said. “Even now there’s a part of you that it’s like, ‘You’re living a nightmare.’”
“It seems really surreal, and when you stop and think about it, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is really happening,’” Regina said. In addition to Declan, the Fishers have a 10-year-old son named Keegan, a 7-year-old daughter named Eire, and a 3-year-old son named Killian. Regina said that the news of Declan’s diagnosis hit Keegan the hardest.
“I can remember him sitting in the chair saying, ‘My brother has cancer,’ and he just kept saying that,” Regina said.
However, Declan is not afraid of his diagnosis, and he does not use the word “cancer,” instead saying simply that he is sick. Declan began chemotherapy on March 31 and receives the treatment every other week. He is expected to continue receiving chemotherapy at least through mid-July.
The Fishers said that their oncologist has told them the cancer is curable, and they have committed to not searching the internet about the disease, which they feel would only fuel their anxiety.
“The goal is to cure and not have it come back,” Regina said. She added that it was difficult to estimate the likelihood of a cure because it is unusual for a boy Declan’s age to have this form of cancer.
“We trust our oncologist, and he’s good, and I have full faith in him,” Regina said.
The Fishers added that the response from the community has been overwhelming. They live in Unity, but their children attend Stratford schools, which recently organized a T-shirt sale to raise funds for the Fisher family and is expected to raise over $2,000.
“The response from the Stratford school and that community was just amazing,” Regina said. Declan still attends school when he can, and the school has been very understanding, the Fishers said.
The experience the Fishers have thus far gone through with Declan has been a “life-pauser.”
“We had planned to move to Stratford this summer, and there’s a lot of bigger things that we had kind of planned to do that are on hold and may not happen now, which is OK, but it really is a life-pauser where everything stops,” Regina said.
People are respecting the Fishers’ privacy but are also looking for ways to help the family.
“We had so many people that wanted to do so many things,” Regina said. “There was so many people that wanted to help.”
“We’re very thankful for that support,” Ryan added.
The family has struggled with the idea that their private ordeal has become public knowledge, but they are finding the positive in the situation.
“The more people that know, the more prayers and the more kind thoughts and things like that (come the family’s way),” Regina said. She added that they are trying to keep things as normal as possible for Declan so that “when he does survive this, he doesn’t have any lasting (effects).”
Both Regina and Ryan work at the Marshfield Clinic, which is also providing Declan’s treatment. Regina is a reimbursement educator, and Ryan works in patient financial services. Working in a medical environment, and the place where their son in being treated, has made it difficult at times for both parents to escape the constant thought of what Declan is enduring.
Regina and Ryan said that Declan had never had any serious medical issues until his diagnosis.
There is an upcoming event on Sunday, May 31, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Marshfield called “Dollars for Declan,” a pancake breakfast that will raise funds for the Fisher family. The event runs from 8-11:30 a.m. and will feature an all-you-can-eat buffet. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $4.50 for children, and free for ages 3 and under.
There is also an account set up at Central City Credit Union for the Fishers for those that would like to donate to the family. Checks can be sent to Central City Credit Union at 222 E. Upham St. in Marshfield and should be made payable to Declan Fisher.
The Fishers also wish to promote the Children’s Miracle Network as an organization that would be good to donate to, to help all families impacted by childhood cancer or other childhood illnesses. Children’s Miracle Network can be reached locally at 715-387-9965 and is located at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital. All money given to this branch of Children’s Miracle Network stays in north-central Wisconsin.