Everyone’s agreed in the Bates household: Life stops until Westyn is well again.
The family will do whatever it takes, said Mark Bates, Westyn’s father.
“I own my own company, and have been self-employed for 25 years,” said Mark. “When this started, the doctor said things are going to change. Your schedule is out the window, your calendar doesn’t mean anything. It’s about him, and he was right.”
Westyn, 4, is the youngest of 12 children for Midlothian residents Mark and Patrice Bates. In October, Westyn was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.
On average, only 250 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the cancer every year, and most range from age 10 to 12, according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center website at the University of Texas. The cancer can cause bone pain, swelling, fevers and sometimes tumors, the website states.
Since the diagnosis, the family has spent a multitude of hours in the hospital. In December, Mark said he and Patrice spent 19 out of 26 work-days by Westyn’s hospital bedside.
“So, one week it’s surgery, one week it’s CT scans and one week it’s surgery again and then it’s in for chemo,” Mark said. “They prepare you for this a little bit at a time. If it’s a stairway at the end of the process, they’re taking two stairs at a time going 'OK, that’s all you need to know right now.' It’s like they don’t want you to know because the more that’s revealed to us, the harder this gets.”
The center website states two-thirds of patients are long-term survivors of the cancer. However, because of Westyn’s age and the number of chemotherapy treatments he’ll have to face, currently Westyn’s immune system is shot, Mark said. When practically anything could make him sick, every day is about keeping him healthy, his father said.
“It’s hard, watching him go from a playful spirit to very weak, and he has to go to the hospital every two weeks,” said Trinity, Westyn’s 13-year-old sister. “With the reality of life, it can change in a heartbeat. Westyn’s changed in one day. When a Bates goes down, we all go down with him, until we can help him back up.”
Westyn faces chemo two times each month, one week it’s for two days and another it’s for five. Westyn’s body couldn’t handle the first two-day treatment, Mark said. A fever took over, and Westyn stopped eating.
Though Westyn received nutrients through IV tubes, Mark said his son wouldn’t take a bite of anything for nine days and dropped to 33 pounds. Since then, Westyn’s shoulder length blonde hair has begun to fall out and his body has grown tired from treatment, Mark said. Westyn will face 14 more chemo treatments until August, when treatments stop.
“It's really hard, with 12 kids, nobody’s got any problems, everyone’s good and then to see your littlest one go through this, it changes everything,” Mark said, wiping tears from his eyes. “I break down every day. I’m used to it, but I shouldn’t have to be. That shouldn’t happen to my little boy.”
With constant trips to the hospital, Mark said the family has struggled financially as well.
During the two months after Westyn’s diagnosis, Mark said he sold half of his auto-repair company to help support the family, medical expenses and to continue working, he said.
“The financial end of it, we’re zeroed out, I don’t know how we’re going to get through eight months,” Mark said.
The family has turned to fundraising and a GoFundMe website for Westyn, Mark said. GoFundMe is an online outlet for those who wish to create personal fundraising sites for a cause. As of Saturday at 6:45 p.m., with a goal of $18,000, the website has helped to bring in $7,035.
Also on Saturday, Jan. 4, Flying G Ranch in Waxahachie hosted an all-day fundraiser, after Trinity, who is a wrangler at the ranch, brought Westyn’s story to the attention of Claudia Gaughan, executive director of the ranch.
The event allowed donors to ride horses and participate in a bake sale, silent auction and potluck. All proceeds went to the Bates family. As of press time, an amount raised from the Flying G Ranch event wasn’t available.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Gaughan said. “It’s just something that when I saw there was a need for the family, I didn’t hesitate at all. I just needed to help them.”
During the event, the family members wore shirts with the logo of “Super Westyn” on the front, as a reminder of the support that Westyn has around him. The idea came after a family friend donated a Christmas ornament with the Superman symbol and the words “Super Westyn” on it, Mark said.
“Yeah we’re under a lot of emotional pressure, but as far as being strong, we’re super strong,” Mark said.