BATAVIA, Ill. (WGN) — Through faith and family support, a 16-year-old teen living in a Chicago suburb is trying to make 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 Sept. 6, 2019, Worley’s grandmother Tami Wilson, who has custody of Brice, heard a thud and “just knew” her grandson would be lying on the floor when she came downstairs.
The night prior, Worley complained of a headache after pitching in a baseball game.
He wasn’t breathing when Wilson found him. She said she heard people talking about life-saving techniques at a wedding two weeks prior, and she was able to get him conscious before going to the emergency room.
“I just remembered everything,” Wilson said. “Our older son had a severe suicide attempt, and I found him. This time I was not panicking.”
In 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 some breaths,” Wilson said.
Worley was diagnosed with a stroke, but the family said doctors didn’t initially know why. Amid puberty, Wilson said Brice’s tumor, which is inoperable, started to grow and produced a build-up of fluid in the brain.
After a week in the ICU, Worley spent time at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab to relearn how to walk, eat and move his arms.
His health started to decline again in November 2019.
“We were celebrating in September after learning it was just a stroke,” Wilson said. “Now they say, ‘I’m sorry, but it is a tumor.'”
Worley was given 18 months to live, but his tumor began 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 — this last chapter is written by Brice and God.'”
As Worley started partial remission, the family said COVID-19 brought them close and allowed them to make more memories with Brice.
Then on April 22 of this year, Worley started to feel a tingling in his face — which is a sign of tumor growth.
A second tumor was detected inside the original, close to Worley’s brain stem.
“Because there is no cure, they said that all we can do right now is give him the best quality of life,” Wilson said. “More tumors will come.”
Worley was given three years to live in June and is taking entrectinib, which is typically given to lung cancer patients to improve their quality of life.
Instead of being fearful of death, the brave teen is taking a different approach.
“Brice has told us how he wants to die,” Wilson said. “‘Mom, I’m not afraid to die. Dad, I’m not dying — I’m transitioning, that’s it.’”
The junior at Batavia High School wants to become an EMT and will attend a trade school EMT program next year. He’s been back at school and recently went to the homecoming dance.
“It’s still within our three-year timeline,” Wilson said. “He will be able to work. He will be able to experience that part of life.”
The City of Batavia heard about Worley’s story and proclaimed Nov. 7 “Brice Worley Day.”
In addition to 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 wants to use his metal detector on the beach. Brice just wants memories. He knows he’s going to go to heaven, and he knows all the memories he’s made are going to carry him.”
The teen wants to create as many family-oriented memories as possible with his time left. Worley hopes to see the Grand Canyon and go back to the Smoky Mountains.
Medical bills from 2020 have started to pile up, putting a financial burden on the family. A fundraiser has been set up to help cover the costs and to help Brice create memories.
In the meantime, green ribbons and #Love4Brice signs have been put up in Batavia to support him and his family.