04 Mar Told He Had Flu, Florida Teen Battles Cancer — And Cyberbullies
TAMPA, FL — No one deserves cancer, but cyberbullies told Hunter Brady that he did. The 16-year-old Tampa area teen said he didn’t care much what they thought because he has a bigger fight ahead — for his life.
The diagnosis was a shock. Hunter was feeling weak, tired and run down last November. He was short of breath. By New Year’s Eve, he was in the emergency room. His mother was told Hunter probably had the flu, which was widespread across the Florida and the country at the time, though no tests were run to confirm it. He was sent home with some medication.
The next day, the symptoms were worse.
Hunter’s parents, Ron and Cheryl, took him to back to the clinic. It was probably just a reaction to the meds and they should "let the virus run its course," they were told, according to a YouCaring crowdfunding page.
When Hunter didn’t get better, his parents took him to his pediatrician, who ordered a CAT scan, which showed his lung was collapsed and was filling with fluid, and his lymph nodes were severely swollen.
The diagnosis: stage 4B Hodgkin lymphoma.
Another test revealed another complication: Fluid surrounded his heart as well.
Hunter was dying.
Weeks of treatment — a blood transfusion, a bone marrow biopsy, surgeries to drain the fluid from his lungs and heart — are holding the disease at bay. But Hunter has a new nemesis: cyberbullies.
When he posted about fighting cancer on his Instagram account, some kid he doesn’t know taunted back, "You deserve cancer," he told ABC News affiliate WFTS.
"I told him I really didn’t care what he said — I really don’t," Hunter said of the teen who targeted him. "He doesn’t know how it feels. So, when he does, he’ll realize and then he’ll feel bad. I hope he does feel bad."
The chemotherapy caused him to lose his hair, and 17 of his classmates shaved their heads in a show of solidarity. They were bullied, too, WFTS said.
The YouCaring page was set up by Hunter’s cousin, who said the teen’s parents haven’t been able to give much attention to their business, which supports their "Brady Bunch" of seven children.
"With such a large family and given their circumstance, I sensed the need to help such a deserving family," John B. Busby Jr. wrote on the page. "Those who know the ‘Brady Bunch’ know how hard it is for them to accept help from others. They are always on the giving end not the receiving."
Hunter, who wants to be a pastor, is relying on his faith to get him through the ordeal.
"Hunter is spiritually gifted and hears God’s promises," Busby wrote on the crowdfunding page. "His courage and demeanor is a testimony to his faith. If you speak or write to Hunter, you will be in for a blessing and a life lesson, young or old."
Doctors told WFTS that Hunter is making good progress and his tumors have shrunk.
"Everybody else’s support helped me get this far. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be," Hunter told WFTS. "I just know I’ve got to keep staying strong," he added. "I’m being mentored by two pastors that told me God is always there, and when he told me that I just went along with what he said, and I got this far. I’m doing good. I’m going to beat it. I ain’t giving up."
The crowdfunding page had received about $6,600 of the $14,250 goal by Thursday noon.