EATON — September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and on Monday, Sept. 13, Eaton Fire & EMS threw a special personal parade for a local child dealing with late-stage cancer. The parade included fire and other apparatus, as well as representation from the Eaton Police Division, all in an effort to brighten Stevie (SJ) Dillon’s day.
SJ, the son of Eaton residents Rebecca Davis and Steve Dillon, was diagnosed with stage four embryonic brain cancer in November 2020.
“He has had more chemo rounds than I can count,” Davis said. “We’ve lost count. Three bone marrow transplants, radiation — and that only allowed his cancer to go away for about three weeks.”
SJ, who turned four this past July, is in hospice care, and being cared for by his parents at home.
“He’s been through more in his life than I think most of us have our entire life,” she said. “He loves fire trucks, and he wants to be a first responder when he grows up. That is his goal. Realistically, we’re lucky if we get another year with him. We’re lucky if we get another five months with him.”
According to his mother, SJ’s cancer is a type which is growing so rapidly doctors can do nothing to stop it. “There is no cure for it,” she said.
“Nothing stops him. He is, and our words, a one-of-a-kind, true superhero. And he is Stevie-strong,” she said. “Every odd that they have thrown at him so far, he has overcome. He was walking two weeks after brain surgery — up and walking. He was talking soon as they pulled the breathing tube out. He was talking, wide awake. And before that he was doing sign language to us.”
What did the special parade mean to SJ Dillon and his family?
“We’re more grateful than we can actually express,” Davis said. The fact that they’re willing to take time out of their day, knowing they are busy, to put a smile on his face, means more than we could ever explain.”
Cancer awareness and getting involved is something Davis and her family are passionate about.
“Childhood cancer alone only gets four percent of any funding that gets donated to the American Cancer Society,” Davis said. “Four percent is not a lot, and two percent of that goes to brain cancer.”
“Get involved. Do your research,” is her message to anyone wanting to help in the battle. “Brain cancer is not rare. Childhood cancer is not rare. Cancer is not rare. They call it rare, but it’s not. A cure is rare.”
She encourages donations to the American Cancer Society Childhood Cancer Foundation.
“All you really can do is get involved. Donate to the Children’s Hospital — toys, anything,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe how many toys this boy was given while we were there. And that alone makes his day. It just keeps them happy,” she said of hospitalized children.
Symptoms of brain cancer like SJ’s can range from anything from sleepiness to passing out, to headaches or issues with the eyes, according to Davis, who explained he had what doctors called an “extremely sleepy episode” just prior to his third birthday. Then, they later noticed something strange with SJ’s left eye. “A few weeks leading up to his diagnosis, his eyeball was almost popping out of his head,” she said. “Other than that, we would have never known until it was too late.”
“I want Eaton PD and everybody involved to know how grateful we are for what they did,” Davis said of SJ’s personal parade last week. “It may not seem big to them, but it is big to him. He’s been excited all morning. We didn’t tell him what was coming. We just told him a surprise is coming, and he’s been excited all morning looking forward to it.”
To top off SJ’s week, he was named a Jr. Grand Marshal and got to ride in the Preble County Pork Festival Parade on Saturday, Sept. 18.
To find out more about SJ Dillon’s battle, find him on Facebook at #StevieStrong.