WESTPHALIA, Mich. — Trooper Dane Van Ells says the fatigue and nausea from treatments are starting to set in, but support from his family, coworkers, and the community is making his battle more bearable.
"Every test they ran on him came back that he's the picture of health, and there was just this one thing," Chasidy Van Ells, Dane's mother said.
That one thing made itself known to Dane when he started having headaches and blurry vision. The symptoms eventually prompted his optometrist to order an MRI.
"The results came back that I had a brain tumor," Van Ells said.
The family says it's an inoperable brain tumor because of its location in the pons of the brain stem (which is the communication center).
"(It) tells the heart to beat, the lungs to breathe," his mother explained.
The troubling diagnosis came in early November, just two weeks before the new Michigan State Trooper was set to start patrolling the roads on his own.
Instead, the Westphalia native's daily routine involves chemotherapy pills and trips to the University of Michigan Hospital for radiation.
"My mom has been driving me, and it's five days a week for six weeks," he said.
As evidenced by the scar at the base of his neck, Van Ells says he made the risky decision to have a biopsy in order to qualify for clinical trials and give himself a fighting chance. The biopsy also revealed he has a rare form of DIPG. Specifically, Van Ells says doctor's diagnosed him with Infiltrating Astrocytoma in the brain stem with the IDH mutation. His family learned the location of this type of tumor is usually on top of the brain, and this is the first time doctors have seen this mutation in the stem.
The DIPG diagnosis forged a connection with local boy Peyton Dennis.
"Even though Dane didn't get a chance to meet him in person, he spoke to his mom and they would talk over social media and send messages and Dane sent him gifts," Chasidy Van Ells recalled.
Sadly, 5-year-old Peyton passed away in December. But like Peyton, Van Ells and his family say they're feeling the love from law enforcement and the community-at-large.
"The GoFundMe page, it was set up and we had no clue that it had been set up. And for it to kind of blow up the way it did, and just the support everyone has offered has been crazy," he said.
"I'm very very thankful for everything and all the prayers and stuff that people are reaching out and sending us," Van Ells added.
His fiance, Baylee Smith said, "We're just so thankful for everything that everybody has done for us. We have people coming from everywhere, people we don't even know donating, and reaching out and asking what they can do to help us. It's a weight lifted off of our shoulders."
"We're praying for a miracle. We're praying this thing goes NED, which is no evidence of disease," Chasidy Van Ells said.
To help Van Ells, the Michigan State Police Lakeview post is hosting a spaghetti dinner benefit on Jan. 11 at Pewamo Westphalia High School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Everyone is invited to come out.
Also, there is a Facebook page set up for Van Ells called Dane's Walk By Faith.