“The Optimist”

Tribute to Gunner Gillespie

On Thursday, October 23, 2008 Gunner Henry Gillespie earned his wings. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor on November 30, 2007, Gunner and his family have spent the last year on a journey to “move Gunner’s mountain.” Gunner entered this world on September 4, 2000, with a fighting spirit and a fierce will to live. Born prematurely in Robinson, IL, Gunner weighed only 1 pound 14 ounces and was 13 inches long. He was so tiny that his dad’s wedding band would slip up and down his arm. Gunner’s determination was amazing to watch and humbling to those around him. Gunner will never know the sheer number of lives that he touched in his short life. But because of Gunner, parents hugged their children a little tighter, people prayed harder and more often, and entire communities joined hands in a common cause as they supported Gunner and his family. Gunner has inspired hope—hope that one day childhood cancer will be defeated. Gunner’s difficulties have encouraged us all to be kinder, to love one another, to smile frequently, and laugh often. Gunner’s train has carried him to a better place but Gunner Gillespie will forever remain an inspiration to everyone. Taken from Collier Funeral Home website.

GunnerMeet Gunner, Gunner was born in Robinson, Illinois, on September 4, 2000 to proud parents Janna and Gus. His story began earlier than expected, as Janna was only 26 weeks along in her pregnancy when Gunner decided to make his debut. He weighed in at one pound 14 ounces and was only 13 inches long. He was transported by helicopter to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, where he remained in NICU for 75 days. When he was finally able to go home, his parents were filled with fear. How would they care for this tiny infant? At six months, Gunner was back in the hospital for a month, where he was once again fighting for his life after contracting influenza b. He spent the next four years in occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy, and after unending doctor’s visits, Gunner was finally talking, walking, learning, eating and thriving as a 4-year old boy should! The family spent a year in Centralia, Illinois, where Gunner attended a special preschool to continue to help him with his needs and developmental delays. The family later moved to Marshall County, Kentucky, where they call home today with Gunner’s younger sister Garlynn.

At the age of seven, Gunner was diagnosed on November 30, 2007 with an inoperable tumor on his brain stem. The type of tumor he has is called a pontine glioma, and it is a highly aggressive, highly malignant, treatment-resistant type of tumor. It is a rare form of terminal cancer that typically affects children between the ages of four and ten. Due to the diffuse nature of the cancer, there are no surgical options and current chemotherapies have been found to be ineffective.

Gunner began radiation treatments on December 10, 2007, at Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. The family resided at the Ronald McDonald House in Nashville for six weeks while Gunner received his daily radiation treatments. They were able to take a brief trip back home for Christmas then it was back to Nashville to finish treatments. On March 4, 2008, Gunner had his first MRI since receiving the radiation, and the doctors confirmed that the tumor had shrunk 75%! Although Gunner and his family had prayed for complete healing, the news was optimistic. They committed themselves to clean eating, positive thinking and plenty of prayer to get them through until Gunner’s next MRI on April 29th. With God’s grace, this next MRI showed that the tumor had remained stable – no growth! While this was again good news, Gunner’s parents were not willing to simply wait for the next MRI and again pray for good results. Instead, they decided to be proactive and sought alternative treatment for Gunner at a facility called Envita in Scottsdale, Arizona. They arrived in Arizona on May 19th, and Gunner was evaluated by the doctors there so that they could design a protocol to best fight his tumor. The type of treatment that was chosen for Gunner is called PolyMVA. The “poly” portion of the treatment breaks the tumor down, the “MV” is the multivitamins and the “A” is the antioxidants. Envita, which is a Christian based facility, believes in treating the entire body, reducing stress, thinking positive thoughts and praying. While these treatments are holistic, they often result in side effects, and Gunner’s case was no different. He suffered a variety of symptoms, including slurred speech, trouble walking, and headaches, but these symptoms intensified to the point that Gunner needed to be admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital on June 7, 2008. The doctors there performed an MRI, and the results were once again encouraging! The tumor showed no signs of growth but rather showed signs of cell death in the center. With this good news, Gunner was released from the hospital and resumed treatments at Envita.

Gunner has endured incredible pain and suffering in his short seven years and nine months of life. Yet despite all of the obstacles, he has persevered with incredible strength and faith! As a lover of trains, he is often heard saying “I think I can, I think I can” and we KNOW that he can, and WILL! With the power of so many family and friends praying for Gunner’s complete healing, he and his family feel blessed despite their circumstances. Please join us in praying for Gunner and in offering him and his family your love and support! And remember Gunner, NEVER GIVE UP!