As kids all over Wyoming were asking their parents and Santa for video games, smartphones and other devices for Christmas, 10-year-old Talyn Reimer of Rawlins had a much different wish.
He didn’t want to die before the end of the year.
“This whole year has been a horrible, rough year for him,” mom Bobbie Robidoux told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “He would say all he wanted for Christmas was to get through the year alive.”
Hearing that as your child’s Christmas wish “was just heart-wrenching” and part of nearly a year Robidoux describes as “a nightmare” for her son and family.
That’s because Talyn has been going through months of intense chemotherapy to shrink a giant tumor in his head that ate through his cheekbone and was pressing into his brain. The only thing that kept the tumor from eating into his brain as well was the thin membrane that surrounds it.
It Started With Headaches
The nightmare started in February when Talyn started complaining of headaches and soreness in his face, Robidoux said.
“He was complaining about how he had pain in the side of his face, and I just blew it off as growing pains,” she said. “But then it was going on for too long and we went to the doctor.”
What they found was enough to scare mother and son to their cores.
Talyn had a large tumor in the side of his face that had already eaten away his cheekbone and was close to break through to his brain.
“They couldn’t really measure how big it was, but it wasn’t operable,” Robidoux said.
In the months since, Talyn has been undergoing some intense chemotherapy, traveling to Casper for some sessions and Denver for others.
And it’s worked. So far, the tumor has shrunk to the point doctors consider it gone, but by no means is Talyn out of the woods, his mother said. He still has another four months of chemo left. The treatment also has left him without an immune system, which means the 10-year-old could easily catch anything that’s going around.
“It can come back at any time in his life,” she said, adding that “in little bitty Rawlins, Wyoming, there’s no place to do chemo.”
That means a lot of travel and the expenses involved with that.
‘A Great Kid’
While Robidoux said Talyn definitely understands how serious his condition is, and he’s scared. He’s also still a regular 10-year-old who only wants to go out and play with other kids and play video games.
And while a lot of kids would love to not be able to go to school, Talyn can’t go and is homeschooled because his immune system can’t handle being around all those other kids right now.
“Talyn is an amazing young man,” said Valerie Ross, a family friend and former teacher for the boy. “He’s so compassionate and caring and sweet. He’s the kid who will go out of his way to get the baby bird that’s fallen out of his next. He’s compassionate beyond his age.”
Although he has every right to be angry and the world and down on himself for having to go through a life-threatening condition that’s so rare it’s found in only one out of every 1 million kids, he’s not, Ross said.
“You would think he would probably be a little down, but he’s not,” she said. “Kids aren’t supposed to deal with this stuff.”
A Different Christmas
Over the months, Robidoux’s truck has become a sanctuary of sorts for her. It’s the time she’s alone driving that she’s able to blow off steam, vent her anger and fear. It started with the day she got one of the worst phone calls a mother could get.
She had just dropped Talyn off at school and was driving to work when his doctor in Denver called to break the news of the tumor.
When the doctor first told her about the tumor in her child’s head, Robidoux said she had a physical reaction.
“I couldn’t even breathe,” she said. “I got the call when I was on my way to work. Once I got off the phone call, all I could do was start hitting my truck. I didn’t know what else to do, I was just so angry. He doesn’t deserve this.”
That began a week she describes as a “complete and total nightmare.”
That’s because after rushing Talyn to a hospital in Denver, it took a week before the test results came back to definitely diagnose her son.
He has a form of cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis, LCH for short, which is very rare and a cousin to leukemia.
“At first, I just cried nonstop and I couldn’t keep it together,” Robidoux said about getting the news. “But I have to keep myself strong and keep it together for him and try to only break down in my truck when nobody else is looking. If my windows could talk, they’d tell you a whole lot.”
Although she and Talyn’s father Charles Reimer are no longer together, they coparent their son, and have both been supporting him throughout.
Christmas this year was different than any other one they’ve ever had, Robidoux said. Although there wasn’t a lot of extra money for gifts, they didn’t notice or care.
“It went really well with just close family around,” she said. “We weren’t able to get him a ton of things, but he had enough.”
At Least One Wish Will Come True
After months of treatment, and with months more ahead, the Rawlins kid is about to have one wish come true. Make-A-Wish has granted Talyn’s wish to have a gaming bedroom.
In a few weeks, his bedroom is going to be transformed into a dream spot any gamer would be jealous of, centered around a new PlayStation 5.
“He loves video games, all kinds of games,” Robidoux said. “He told me, ‘Mom, this is the one good thing that happened out of a bad situation.’”
Along with video games, Talyn “absolutely loves Spider-Man,” she said.
The family doesn’t have a lot, Ross said, but are “just good people who deserve a break right now.”
That’s why she’s started a GoFundMe campaign to help Talyn and his family. As of Tuesday, it has raised $775 of a $2,500 goal. A Christmas evening showing at the local movie theater raised $1,500.
Robidoux said her employer also has been a huge help with whatever she’s needed to do to deal with her son’s medical needs.
“The place I work is absolutely amazing, Elk Mountain Diesel,” she said. “They allow me to work full time and they allow me to bring Talyn with me and I homeschool him here. They understand that sometimes I have to just take off.”
If there’s a local family that deserves a little help, it’s Talyn and his parents, Ross said.
“They live very modestly, but never complain or bad-mouth others,” she said. “If anyone deserves a little help, it’s them.”
For Talyn’s parents, the goal remains the same — to keep as much normalcy as possible for Talyn.
Early on, he was scared of everything, his mom said.
“He wasn’t laughing, he wasn’t smiling,” she said. “He was even afraid of school, and he’s still afraid and still scared. He was scared of everything in the world for awhile there.”
The key is to make sure they live their lives as normal as possible, even when it’s not possible.
“I try to make sure he’s still the same kid, but we have to protect him because he doesn’t have an immune system and there are times when he gets down and sad,” Robidoux said.
But most of the time, he’s the same Talyn as before the tumor.
And he did get what he wished for — Talyn’s alive and doing well going into the New Year.
“Health-wise, he’s doing good,” Ribidoux said. “He’s still definitely very low on energy and can’t run and play like he used to, but he does try. And he’s very scared of the world and what could happen. There’s a lot there a little guy shouldn’t have to go through.”