COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - The City of Columbia is coming together for a little girl named Gentry Terrell. Gentry, 5, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, Stage 4 Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).
Her family's pastor, Dr. Joe Wiggins, said Gentry started showing signs earlier last year.
"Gentry started having some vision problems," said Wiggins. "She also started having some speech problems."
Wiggins said Gentry's parents took her to see a vision specialist and to speech therapy. However, her condition continued to worsen.
"Dec. 19, her mother texted me and told me she was bringing her to Forrest General," said Wiggins. "That was the night, whenever they diagnosed her through a CT scan, with a brain tumor."
According to St. Jude Children's Hospital, DIPG is a very aggressive, rapidly growing tumor that starts in the brain stem, which controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles that help us to see, hear, walk, and talk. Symptoms include problems with balance and walking, eyesight issues, difficulty chewing and swallowing, nausea and vomiting, morning headache, and facial weakness or drooping (usually on one side).
"It is a very rare form of brain cancer," said Wiggins. "It mainly affects children. Only about 200 to 300 children are diagnosed with it every year.
According to St. Jude, due to the tumor's location in the brain stem, surgery is rarely an option, making the cancer difficult to treat. At this time, there is no cure for this tumor and, unfortunately, survival rate for DIPG remains very low.
On Jan. 4, Gentry will be heading to New Orleans for six to eight weeks of radiation treatment. Wiggins said Gentry is a very active and curious child.
"She has a very infectious laugh. If you ever hear her laugh, it's just one of those laughs that just stays with you," said Wiggins.
Wiggins said the Terrell family is taking it one day at a time with Gentry as they begin going through her treatment process. He said Gentry's parents are thankful to be able to spend time with the kindergartner and make memories with her.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, at the request of the family, North Columbia Baptist Church will be hosting an anointing service at 6 p.m. Wiggins said several pastors, priests, and ministers will be taking part in the service along with several members of the community to pray for Gentry Terrell before her treatment begins.
For updates on Gentry and her progress, you can follow this link: Prayer for Gentry #GENTRYSTRONG.