Taft soccer player Brandyn McFarland is fighting cancer

Sometimes the toughest competition for an athlete is not the opponent on the field but the one off it.

That is what Taft soccer player Brandyn McFarland has been going through as he looks to battle past and defeat Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma.

McFarland, who plays for the West Side Youth Soccer League and the Bakersfield Blades club soccer team, has been playing soccer for about eight years and as long as he can remember.

According to his mom, Melissa, McFarland got hooked on the sport after kicking around the soccer ball.

“He says he truly enjoys it,” said Melissa through e-mail.

According to Melissa, having Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma does not mean McFarland has to give up the sport for good.

“This is just a break and he still can work on his game off the field,” she said. 

Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma is an aggressive and rare form of cancer of the tissue and bone that in McFarland’s case has destroyed the bottom lower right side of his jaw.

The nightmare started for McFarland and his family a few weeks ago when he experienced some pain and swelling in his lower jaw.
At first it was thought to be his molars but the pain and swelling got worse.

They then went to a dentist, an oral surgeon and a Maxiollfacial surgeon (to treat many diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face and jaws) before finding out that it was a tumor.

Six days after having a biopsy, McFarland found out he had Embroyonal Rhabdomyosarcoma.

When he found out he had cancer, McFarland said he was shocked.

McFarland, who is 12 years old, says the toughest part of the experience is not the radiation, or the tracheotomy for some time, or having a PICC line (something used for long term chemotherapy regimens, extended antibiotic therapy, or total parental nutrition, etc.) or even a G Tube (which is a gastronomy feeding tube insertion that is a placement of a feeding tube through the skin and the stomach wall directly into the stomach).

Instead he said it was the actual mass in his mouth, not being able to eat and of course not being able to be on the soccer field.

“I know I will get through this,” he said.

Melissa says there really isn’t a typical day for McFarland.

“Everyday is different,” she said. “He has meds, nutrition, nurses visits, physical therapist visits, exercises to do daily. Everything has to be monitored. Some days he has energy. Some days he doesn’t.”

According to his mom, McFarland does chemotherapy every Friday in Los Angeles. Every three weeks, McFarland has another type of chemotherapy and has to stay in the hospital for the weekend.

A few weeks after that McFarland has to stay five days or more when he would get another type of chemotherapy every day for five days.

This will be his schedule for the next forty plus weeks.

What makes the situation easier for McFarland is the support.

“What gets me through the tough days is having my family and friends’ love and support,” he said.

Despite going through a tough time, McFarland and his family have been seeing progress.

“We are happy with how treatment is going and believe radiation is was what has made the biggest difference,” said Melissa.

Right now there is not a long term prognosis. Instead they are taking it one day at a time.

“This is a journey that we have learned to take day by day even moment by moment,” said Melissa.

“For now we allow the treatment to take its course. We trust his team of doctors and have faith to get through this.”

The other tough part about the experience has been the finances. While there is no specific number, things can change in a heartbeat.

“It hasn’t been easy,” said Melissa. “The kindness of friends and family has helped. It’s going to be a tough road ahead.”

Note: The West Side Recreation and Park District will be holding a fundraiser for McFarland this Saturday at the Rec Center.
For information about the fundraiser or questions about helping McFarland out, contact Laney Pait at 765-6677 or email Pait at laney@wsrpd.com