This autumn, 11-year-old Kaiden Schmidt started having blurry vision. Being a kid who rarely complains, Kaiden's mom, Kim, noticed him reading with one eye closed.
So Kaiden's dad, Michael, the former owner of Bella's Fat Cat restaurants in Milwaukee, took him to Children's Hospital for what he thought would be the usual check-in-with-the-doctor visit that's so familiar to parents.
The doctor, however, told him to take Kaiden to Children's Hospital for an MRI. And what they found out did not have a quick fix.
On Oct. 11, 2012, Kaiden was diagnosed with an inoperable, non-germinoma germ-cell tumor located in the center of his brain. This kind of tumor is extremely rare and accounts for just three percent of pediatric brain tumors.
Kaiden's mom immediately changed his diet to vegan and alkaline. He removed sugar from his diet and his parents began juicing three times daily.
On Monday Oct. 22, Kaiden had emergency surgery to put a tube in his brain and allow the cerebral fluid to drain. The fluid was pooling due to the mass of the tumor blocking its flow to the spinal cord.
"He did awesome," says Kim.
The Schmidts were hoping to avoid what Michael describes as "heroic medicine," but the location and aggressive nature of the cancer did not leave them with that option.
Kaiden is in his second of six rounds of chemotherapy and is scheduled for radiation treatment after all the chemotherapy is completed.
"We have employed adjunctive therapies, such as vitamins, herbal supplements, Chinese medicine, aromatherapy, flower essences, and Reiki. We have incorporated mind-body visualizations and guided imagery. We certainly pray often and laugh whenever we can," says Michael.
Prognosis on Kaiden is very good. A recent blood test indicated that the tumor is responding to the treatment after the first round of chemo.
Michael describes Kaiden as an extremely bright, gentle, compassionate, selfless, responsible and sweet child.
"He is a bit of a joker, and has a great sense of humor. He enjoys school, runs cross-country, is an avid reader, is involved with LEGO robotics, enjoys drawing and hanging with his buddies," says Michael.
Even though his blood counts have been good and he has been feeling well enough, at times, to go running, swimming and to school after his first round of chemo, the Schmidts are taking it day by day.
"It is important that he gets as much rest as he needs, in order to heal," says Michael.
The Schmidts have been deeply touched by the kind and generous response from friends, his school and complete strangers.
"We are truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and concern for our son and our family," says Michael. "The loving thoughts and prayers have been a great source of strength for our family. Please continue to keep Kaiden in your thoughts and lift him in your prayers."
A benefit show for Kaiden will take place on Saturday, Dec. 29 at Circle A, 932 E. Chambers St., featuring Resistor Transistor and Age Gap.
There's also an online fundraising effort called Curing Kaiden that will help with the medical costs. Friends, family and school mates have brought meals to the family via an online meal registration.
Local business has stepped up, too. Little Monsters, 2445 N. Farwell Ave., donated a portion of weekend sales and Front Room Photography, 2637 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., donated family portraits.
"There have been amazing offers to turn holiday parties into fundraisers, host other benefit shows and print T-shirts. We have kids making stationery and crocheting scarves, with proceeds going to Curing Kaiden. Proceeds from holiday ornament sales in Grafton are also being donated," says Michael.
"This Thanksgiving we were grateful for our abundance of blessings."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.