When Torrin Breneman learned what cancer was in 4th grade, he wanted to do something about it. Since that day, he worked on growing out his hair, and six months ago the now-12-year-old made his donation to Wigs for Kids. Torrin’s father, Jason Breneman, told GoodHousekeeping.com that his son would get teased for his long locks “whenever they’d go anywhere public.” Even still, Torrin stuck with his goal because, despite not having the money or resources to donate, what “he did have was his hair.”
Then the unimaginable happened. Last week, Torrin was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. It’s most common in early adulthood and after age 55, reports the American Cancer Society, with only about 10-15% of cases diagnosed in kids and teenagers.
The Brenemans, a family of four from Detroit, were shocked when doctors told them that the cancer had rapidly spread to Torrin’s liver, blood, kidney, bones and stomach. Torrin’s father said that just 90 days ago, the boy had been cancer-free. After going in for what they thought was just a “bad cough,” test results showed this life-threatening illness — and the Torrin needed immediate treatment.
He is in the process of undergoing intensive chemotherapy, and according to his father, he “can’t even lay flat” and is only able to eat bread. “I can measure my sleep in seconds not days,” Jason said, conveying just how taxing his son’s heartbreaking situation has been. Torrin’s mother, Carrie Breneman Chmura, said that she’s been trying to stay positive and that, for her, the key is to “not let Torrin see fear” in her eyes.
Though it’s been incredibly hard on the family, Torrin was released from the PICU yesterday. His father said doctors are talking about sending him home soon, giving him an estimated 70-80% chance of survival. This, Jason stated, is an improvement from the first prognosis.
The chemo, which he’d originally been told could go on for years, might only last for six to eight months because Torrin has been responding “so well” to the medication. “He has fought so hard,” his father said. “He’s been getting healed physically way better than anticipated.” The family has received unwavering support from their community, friends and loved ones. They credit Jason’s boss, Chef Robert Nahra, and Torrin’s principal, Tammy Scholz, specifically for being their “angels” during these trying times.
Torrin’s aunt, Rachel Timpe, started a GoFundMe page that has raised over $8,000 already, and the Rainbow Connection, a Michigan nonprofit for kids with cancer, has also been gracious in their efforts to help the family. They even told Torrin, a WWE fanatic since he was a baby, that they’d fly him out to see a show when his doctors allow it. “[Torrin’s] spirits have been down … he’s just been down,” Breneman said. “But to see a smile on his face when the Rainbow Connection promised him that … it’s the world.”