Mother shares baby's cancer story to raise awareness about further testing children for disease

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio mother is sharing her baby’s cancer diagnosis story with others in hopes of helping to advocate for other first-time mothers who believe something is wrong with their baby despite being told otherwise.

Serena Voss found out about three weeks ago that her 9-month-old baby, Benjamin, has a brain tumor that has spread to his spine. She said that, at previous visits to the emergency room and clinics at different locations, medical staff told her the baby's fussiness and irritability was normal baby pains. 

“Whenever he started to just scream out of nowhere and looked very irritable and uncomfortable, we had taken him to the doctor, and everyone just said it was a virus, that he was teething and that's why he was crying and uncomfortable,” Voss said.

At the baby’s nine-month checkup, his pediatrician discovered his head was the size of a 20-month-old baby.

Benjamin was rushed to the hospital for an emergency surgery. That’s when Voss found out what had been troubling her baby for weeks. It was ependymoma, which had spread from his brain to his spine.

Benjamin has had three surgeries in two weeks.

“When a baby cries or when a baby is uncomfortable, your first thought isn’t, ‘Oh, it's cancer.’ So it's kind of shocking and surreal to me,” Voss said.

She was told her son has weeks to months to live, likely from a grade II cancer.

Doctors removed as much of the tumor as much as they could, Voss said. Only about 50% could be safely removed from the baby’s head.   

Voss hasn’t left her son’s side since he was admitted to the hospital. He has his good and bad days, but to her, every day she gets to spend with him is a good day, she said.

Her once smiling, happy and energetic baby, who was just about to start crawling, is in pain and sleeping most of the time.

“When something like this happens, it's all out of your control, and you can't — you know, you can't do anything to help it anymore,” Voss said.

She doesn’t know if catching the tumor earlier could have helped her baby. But she hopes other first-time mothers are persistent in their demand for a definite answer from nurses and doctors when their gut tells them something is not right. 

“I really want to push other moms. If they see anything out of the ordinary or you see other babies and they’re a little bit more advanced than yours, just be adamant about getting scans, you know, making sure every single little thing is fine, not, ‘Oh, I don't think we should worry about this. It seems normal.’ You need to know,” Voss said.

Benjamin is going home for hospice care. You can follow his journey by clicking here.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.