Though Slade Smiley’s son Grayson hasn’t been on The Real Housewives of Orange County since the show’s early years, many fans know that the now 12-year-old has been battling a brain tumor for years behind the scenes. Thanks to information provided by Grayson’s mother on the website AmazingGray.org, we are able to tell you a little bit about Grayson’s story and let you know how this brave little boy is doing today!
First, a little history. Grayson began showing signs of developmental delays at four years old, and by kindergarten, his vision had deteriorated significantly and Grayson began wearing glasses. By May of 2006, Grayson was having a hard time in school despite transferring to a school for students with special needs, had begun talking in his sleep, and became disoriented one night after days of vomiting, which Michelle had originally thought was a stomach flu. She decided to take him to a doctor, who ordered a quick CT scan and saw a mass in his brain on the scan. On May 19, 2006, at the age of six, Grayson was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
It was a month later that Grayson was further diagnosed with “Diffuse Fibrillary Astrocytoma,” which means his primary brain tumor developed from astrocytoma cells. These cells have diffused throughout his brain, cerebellum, and spinal cord. Unfortunately, neurosurgeons agreed that the tumor could not be surgically removed. These tumors are extremely rare, accounting for just 1.7% of the over 120 different types of brain tumors.
Grayson has had numerous chemotherapy treatments and surgeries to combat his disease, and has spent much of his young life in the hospital. (You can learn more about the history of Grayson’s treatments here.) Tragically, only 46% of patients with Diffuse Fibrillary Astrocytomas survive at 4.7 years and 0% survive at 10 years. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for astrocytomas, and Grayson’s case is further complicated by the diffuse nature of his tumor. Michelle is hoping to beat the odds and change the long-term statistics.
In November 2011, Slade and Gretchen hosted a fundraiser in Grayson’s honor at the Victor Paul Salon in Costa Mesa, California. All proceeds went to the Beckstrand Cancer Foundation. In a press release, Slade was quoted saying, “When my son Grayson was diagnosed with Brain Cancer, I was not just emotionally destroyed by the diagnosis of cancer, but after 7 brain surgeries and no cure, I was financially destroyed by the disease,” adding, “Beckstrand understands the financial strains that cancer can place on a family and they are offering individuals and family’s financial hope. Hope to get back on their feet, pay the mortgage or just put food on the table.”
Slade also participated in the Calabasas Classic 10K to Benefit the Talbert Family Foundation, which is a charity organization that raises proceeds for Grayson to pay for specific rehabilitation and therapies, medical expenses, as well as on-going research for potential treatments for his rare tumor.
Grayson’s Amazing Gray Facebook page, which is also managed by his mother Michelle, reveals Grayson spent the past Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in a hospital in NY. He originally came to NY in October for surgery, which was intended to make room in the back of Grayson’s head to alleviate compression and hopefully provide some pain relief. On January 20, 2012, a Facebook updated stated that after 94 days in the ICU, Grayson finally made it to rehab at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. A February 21st status updated states:
Gray had his MRI yesterday and it shows the fourth ventricle where they debulked the tumor looks smaller, the hypothalamic-optic nerve tumor looks stable and there is no evidence of the intra-ventricular or intra-tumoral bleed. When we saw Gray’s Neurosurgeon in NY two days before we left he was so pleased, and said you only get one of these a career. And Gray is it ~ an amazing miracle!
The latest update on Grayson’s Facebook page is from April 4th and states:
We are home…and working really hard around the clock to get our boy better. Gray still has his tracheostomy which requires 24 hour oxygen, we work his lungs daily with chest physiotherapy and nebulized breathing treatments. He has contractures in his knees from being in bed for so long, which prevent him from being able to straighten his legs. He has right sided facial paralysis – weakness, which prevents him from closing his right eye and causes a half smile. He has autonomic instability which means his body cannot regulate its own temperatures. He is on medication for diabetes insipidus which means his body cannot regulate his own fluids, which fluctuates sodium and potassium levels that have to be very closely monitored. And all in all he is just really weak from being in a bed for six months. With all of this he is still Gray….super sharp, charming, chatty, loves playing his games, and thinks he can do almost anything. He often says he just wants to walk across the room and then realizes that he can’t quite walk yet. As time goes on and his body clears more and more of the sedating drugs that he was on for so long his short term memory is getting better, and you can tell he is thinking much more clearly. He is the light of my life, and although I am overwhelming consumed by his needs, our very long road is looking a little rosier. I am in perpetual motion tending to his care, getting all of his rehabilitation therapies, supplies and keeping all of his medical needs moving forward. But the best part of everything is that Gray, for the first time in years, does not have pain in his head. For this, we are grateful for all of those that support Amazing Gray, and have continued to support us through these crazy times, which have become our norm. For those that are interested in supporting us through the Talbert Family Foundation Amazing Gray Fund please private message me or you can go directly to the fund. ~beLIeVE in miracles….michelle and gray
Gretchen revealed that during the past season of The Real Housewives of Orange County, she and Slade were under enormous stress from dealing with Grayson’s health issues. We continue to hope for the best for Grayson and hope that this amazing young man beats the statistics and can live a long, healthy life. To get more information on donating to the Talbert Family Foundation Amazing Gray Fund, click here.
(Second photo from bottom: Amazing Gray Facebook page)