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‘It’s God’s Grace’: Illinois teen hopes to create memories while battling end-stage brain cancer

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history at a glance

  • Brice Worley, 16, was born with a tumor that went undetected until he was 13.

  • In November 2019, Worley was given 18 months to live, but then his tumor began to shrink.

  • In April 2022, a second tumor was discovered and Worley was given three years to live.

BATAVIA, Ill. (WGN) – Through faith and family support, a 16-year-old teenager living in suburban Chicago is trying to gather as many memories as possible while battling a brain tumor.

Brice Worley was born with the tumor, which remained dormant and undetected until he was 13.

On the morning of September 6, 2019, Worley’s grandmother, Tami Wilson, who has custody of Brice, heard a thump and “just knew” her grandson would be on the floor when she came down the stairs.

The night before, Worley complained of a headache after pitching at a baseball game.

He wasn’t breathing when Wilson found him. She said she overheard people talking about life-saving techniques at a wedding two weeks earlier and she was able to make him aware before going to the emergency room.

(Tami Wilson)

“I just remembered everything,” Wilson said. “Our older son attempted a serious suicide and I found him. I didn’t panic this time.”

At that moment, Wilson said she was relying on her faith.

“I made this deal with God that I would serve him for the rest of my life if [Worley] just took a few breaths,” Wilson said.

Worley was diagnosed with a stroke, but the family said doctors didn’t initially know why. In the midst of puberty, Wilson said Brice’s tumor, which is inoperable, began to grow, producing a buildup of fluid in the brain.

After a week in intensive care, Worley spent time at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab relearning how to walk, eat and move his arms.

(Tami Wilson)

In November 2019, his health began to deteriorate again.

“We celebrated in September after learning it was just a stroke,” Wilson said. “Now they’re like, ‘I’m sorry, but it’s a tumor.'”

Worley had 18 months to live, but his tumor was beginning to shrink.

“They said it was a miracle, and then he turned 16. He was never expected to turn 16,” Wilson said. “I said, ‘OK, but you’re not God — that last chapter was written by Brice and God.'”

As Worley began partial remission, the family said COVID-19 brought them closer and allowed them to have more memories with Brice.

Then, on April 22 of this year, Worley felt a tingling sensation on his face — which is a sign of tumor growth.

A second tumor was found in the original, near Worley’s brainstem.

(Tami Wilson)

“Because there’s no cure, they said, ‘All we can do now is give him the best quality of life,'” Wilson said. “There will be more tumors to come.”

Worley was given three years to live in June and is taking entrectinib, which is usually given to lung cancer patients to improve their quality of life.

Instead of being scared to death, the brave teenager takes a different path.

“Brice told us how he wanted to die,” Wilson said. “‘Mom, I’m not afraid to die, Dad, I’m not dying — I’m transforming, that’s it.'”

The junior at Batavia High School wants to be an EMT and will be attending a trade school EMT program next year. He’s back in school and recently went to the homecoming ball.

(Tami Wilson)

“It’s still within our three-year deadline,” Wilson said. “He will be able to work. He will be able to experience that part of life.”

The City of Batavia heard of Worley’s story and declared November 7 Brice Worley Day.

Besides sunsets, Chicago sports and fishing, Worley loves using his metal detector on the beach. His Make-A-Wish trip was supposed to take him to Hawaii, but COVID-19 had other plans.

“We went to Florida instead,” Wilson said. “He wants to go to Hawaii and use his metal detector on the beach. Brice just wants memories. He knows he’s going to heaven and he knows all the memories he made will carry him.”

The teenager wants to make as many family-oriented memories as possible with the time they have left. Worley hopes to see the Grand Canyon and return to the Smoky Mountains.

Medical bills from 2020 are piling up, putting a financial strain on the family. A fundraiser was set up to help cover costs and help Brice create memories.

(Tami Wilson)

Meanwhile, green ribbons and #Love4Brice signs have been put up in Batavia to support him and his family.

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