CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Brain cancer is one of the leading causes of pediatric deaths. A little boy in Canfield is fighting a tough battle, but he’s not doing it alone.
With the help of his family, community and even local firefighters, we are all learning the meaning of “Devin Strong.”
Devin Kirtley was just like any other little boy, but everything changed in January 2018.
“Just being a mom, I knew something wasn’t right,” Alicia Mullins said.
She noticed Devin was sicker than he should’ve been so she took him to Akron Children’s Hospital.
“That’s where we found out he had a mass on his brain,” Alicia said.
Just 11 months old at the time, Devin was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“It was very scary, but we knew God was in control,” said Lisa Lawton, Devin’s grandma.
Devin went into a nine-hour surgery and doctors were able to remove the entire tumor.
At a check-up in October 2018, Alicia and Lisa got heartbreaking news. The cancer was back and it had spread.
“Now in other parts of the back of the brain and it has metastasized to the spine. So it’s a stage 4 cancer now instead of stage 3,” Lisa said.
Devin’s family was devastated and left with a decision to make. Lisa asked the surgeons, “If it was your son, what would you suggest?”
“That’s always been my question. And she said to keep him comfortable, love on him and fulfill his little bucket list.”
So that’s exactly what they’re doing. Chemo was not shown to help children in Devin’s case, so the now 2-year-old lives at home with a palliative care team that keeps him comfortable.
“I felt in my heart that that’s not the route for him,” Alicia said. “We just take one day at a time.”
But he is not fighting this battle alone.
“He has his best little friend that’s been there since day one in the hospital — Hedgie,” Alicia said.
Along with the stuffed animal, Devin’s family is there every step of the way.
Lisa started Go Gray for May to raise awareness and the Cardinal Joint Fire District stepped up by making shirts to support Devin’s journey.
“He’s the bravest little boy you’ll meet,” firefighter Gio Melia said.
They will be wearing the shirts all month, showing off “DEVIN STRONG” in large letters on the back.
“He is such a fighter, Devin, that I just wanted to let him know that we’re behind him. All of us. The community is family,” Lisa said.
Even after everything he’s been through, his resilience is what Alicia said keeps everyone going.
“He has a little personality where he likes to dance. He loves laughing, playing outside, playing with rocks. He just likes to be a little boy.”
You can support Devin and his family, too, by ordering a shirt online from the Cardinal Joint Fire District. You can pick them up at the station on Herbert Road or have them shipped.
Grandma Lisa wanted to thank Wade Calhoun, Gio Melia, Longhorn Steakhouse and Daniel Farinelli of Blue Line, LTD.
You can follow Devin’s journey on Facebook.