Tanner McCormick has spent the first few years of his life battling the effects of being born with an interhemispheric cyst inside his brain, but miraculously the now four-year-old is just like any regular kid.
“He likes to do all the things a typical boy his age likes to do,” said his mom, Kristen. “He just doesn’t stop all day long—it’s amazing.
“And he has such an incredible imagination.”
The youngster likes watching “The Wiggles,” playing video games, going swimming and fishing, and telling knock-knock jokes. But his favourite toy right now is the small drum set he received for his birthday on Aug. 4 because he can “rock out” on it.
Tanner also has a very good memory.
“He is really good at remembering names and people—he doesn’t forget anything,” his dad, Mike, explained.
“He brings out the best in everyone,” added Kristen. “He’s so friendly. He has to stop and talk to everyone when we go to the store.”
But although Tanner is doing extremely well today, he’s had a life full of struggles.
When he was born, the cyst, which was discovered when he was about four months old, had made his head swell to the size of an average one-year-old’s. He suffered from two conditions called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and Agenesis of the Septum Pellucidum—meaning he was missing two parts of his brain.
The cyst had halted the natural development of particular areas of the brain.
Due to these conditions, Tanner had a shunt inserted into his brain. While he kept pushing onwards, the youngster has struggled with other complications, such as poor eyesight and ear infections to name a few.
The doctors also suspected Tanner would have serious delays and handicaps in his development, both physically and intellectually. But he’s certainly overcame these obstacles, perhaps being just slightly behind his peers.
Tanner didn’t seem to have many problems speaking or with vocabulary, and he’s obviously a very smart boy. He did spend a year using a walker or “scooting” to get around, but just before last Christmas he began walking well on his own.
“Now if there are people who don’t know his story, they don’t suspect anything is wrong,” his dad remarked.
“But we still go to Winnipeg every three months and there is a pediatrician that follows him,” explained his mom, noting that Tanner has had a number of surgeries.
“Unfortunately, even simple things aren’t so simple with him.”
Tanner had tubes put in his ears three times and had his adenoids removed, but that caused some abnormal bleeding. In fact, from last August-December, the youngster lost 12 pounds and was very sick.
“You get thrown back into reality,” mom, Kristen, said. “When he gets sick so quick, it’s a reminder how life can change.
“We try not to take for granted how well he is doing.”
While keeping a close watch on Tanner’s eyesight, doctors also have been looking for seizure activity in his brain and also the possibility of scoliosis.
Kristen stressed the doctors in Winnipeg have been amazed by the progress Tanner has made in four short years.
“They just sit and watch him in amazement,” Mike recalled.
The couple indicated the doctors can’t fully explain why Tanner has been able to overcome physical and intellectual obstacles, when they originally believed he would never walk or talk.
“The only way they can explain it is that his brain has been able to find new pathways since there are many ways the neurons can connect,” Kristen noted.
Although Tanner would be eligible to start junior kindergarten this year, his parents have decided to wait another year.
“Intellectually, he’d be all right,” Kristen said, though citing he may have a problem physically. Besides having only been walking on his own for less than a year, Tanner has trouble with transition.
And since he doesn’t forget anything, if he were to fall or get bumped, it could lead to a negative experience at this point.
“I’m lucky to be able to stay home with him,” his mom added.
But even though Tanner won’t be joining his peers at school this year, he certainly will be a busy boy. In fact, he’s already had many exciting experiences and accomplishments under his belt.
He’s flown in an airplane, and on a recent fishing excursion caught a “big, big, big” walleye. He also takes private swimming lessons and will begin five-pin bowling this fall.
Tanner even was a special guest and participant in the annual Ronald McDonald House Hope Couture Fashion Show and Dinner in Winnipeg back in May.
“It was a really big deal. There was over 600 people there,” his mom said, noting Tanner, along with his brother, Shaye, walked the catwalk wearing their spiffy outfits.
“It was so nice to be a part of it since I don’t know where we’d be without the Ronald McDonald House,” she remarked.
And most recently, Tanner was crowned the 2009 Mini-King at the Emo Fair last week.
“We want to give him the opportunity to do anything he wants to do,” Kristen stressed. “We don’t want him to feel any different.”
She also said Tanner’s brothers, Shaye and Jonah, have been incredible with him—and that the support they’ve received from family, friends, and the community has been overwhelming.
“The community is just amazing,” Kristen enthused. “People are always showing their concern and asking for updates.”
She admitted the family sometimes struggles with the questions of why and how this happened to Tanner.
“But all I can come up with is everything happens for a reason and I would never change any part of it,” she said. “We just take it one day at a time.
“There are some days that are rough and we know his journey is far from over, but it makes every moment worth it.”