Every day, Eric Diffendal is reminded in little ways of the tumor that lies dormant in his brain. The radiation to kill the cancer years ago also killed his sense of taste and more.
“I can’t smell anything, like stinky trash. I can’t smell it, or even good things.”
Because his tumor is on his pituitary gland, it affected his growth. Eric now wears a size 16 shoe, disproportionately large for his height. He also has seizures and trouble adjusting to cold and hot weather.
“My cheeks will get hot, and my ears will get real red.”
That’s why Eric will likely be on medication the rest of his life and returns to St. Jude every year for a checkup. Doctors there started treating Eric at age 7, after the first tumor was removed.
“Back in 2003, I had the surgery.”
But the tumor grew back so doctors tried a new procedure at the time.
“Thirty treatments of radiation,” Diffendal said.
It worked, stopping the tumor’s growth ever since.
“I mean they’re just amazing. We’ve never seen a bill one from St. Jude’s,” said Deane Donley, Eric’s stepfather.
Eric now works full-time at the Pioneer Balloon company in El Dorado and helps babysit his nephew.
He feels lucky and grateful to St. Jude for the time with family and his promising future.
“I know the good Lord has plans for me. I don’t know what they are yet. I gotta be patient.”