‘He is a little lion’: Pearland toddler battles rare brain cancer with bravery

PEARLAND, Texas – At just 13 months old, little Kennedy Cloutier from Pearland has overcome so much in his young life.

On Aug. 3, 2021, at just nine months old, Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer after doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital identified a tumor on his CT scan.

Christina Cloutier, Kennedy’s mom, said her son had been displaying symptoms that caused concern but never could have guessed the prognosis.

“He started vomiting, he developed torticollis on one side of his neck, and then it switched to the other side, which doesn’t happen,” said Cloutier, “He didn’t want to sit up. You could just tell something was wrong. I was hoping they were going to say it’s vestibular, that he needed tubes in his ears, just normal pediatric issues.”

But, it wasn’t. Instead, she learned her nine-month-old baby had what’s called an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, a rare form of tumor with an only 30% survival rate.

Doctors were able to remove part of the tumor.

“Due to the removal, he has left side paralysis of his face, his vocal cords and his eye function but he is starting to blink a little bit. After the craniotomy, he couldn’t close his eye at all. So when they went in to surgically remove the tumor, they didn’t damage his 7th cranial nerve, they stretched it to get the tumor out. As a result, it caused facial paralysis… but over time, the nerves should start reconnecting each other, growing together and realizing what they need to do so he might gain a bit of muscle function back.”

Following his procedure came rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

During Kennedy’s cancer journey, he spent 198 days in the hospital before finally finishing his chemotherapy and radiation treatments and getting the chance to ring the end-of-treatment bells at both MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“He’s been through more than our grandparents have been in their lifetime in just his 18 months of going through cancer treatment,” said Cloutier. " He is my little lion. I think what Kennedy shows us is that fighting cancer takes a lot of courage and bravery… He is just this lighted spirit you don’t really see with cancer.”

Cloutier said Kennedy’s personality and spirit is exactly why he’s become so popular with the medical staff at the hospitals. “Everyone just falls in love with him!”

While Kennedy still receives routine MRI’s and scans to keep an eye on the residual tumor, Kennedy is back home in Pearland now living with his sister, Reagan, mom and dad.  The entire Cloutier is looking forward to celebrating Kennedy’s second birthday in October.

It’s a major milestone in Kennedy’s cancer journey and big one worth celebrating.

“Kennedy has taught us not to sweat the small stuff, you know, he’s been through a lot- he just never acts like it. He doesn’t ever complain…' said Cloutier, " He was born into this world to be a brave courageous lion and that’s exactly what he is.”

About the Author:

A small-town girl from West Michigan with a passion for storytelling, traveling the world and meeting remarkable people along with the way.