VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Horns honked, flags flew and signs with words of encouragements waved as the 30th Security Forces Squadron organized a small parade for Grayson, the son of TSgt. Kayla Cates, 30th Security Forces Squadron National Reconnaissance Office Launch Program Security officer and SSgt. Tyler Cates, 30th Security Forces Squadron Unit Trainer, who recently returned home from beating cancer, on Jan. 29, 2022, at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif.
In December of 2020, Grayson started to feel sick, having severe headaches and constantly throwing up. The Cates had many struggles on top of being active duty and their defender family had been a big help to the family in many ways over several months. The 30th SFS worked with the schedule of doctor appointments to make sure that Kayla and Tyler could always be there for Grayson.
“Grayson was sick for months and I think he started really getting sick in December of the year prior,” said Kayla. “We didn’t think that Tyler would be able to be with us full time; his commander, leadership and supervisor made sure that he stayed in Los Angeles to support me through everything.”
The Cates visited several doctors urgently trying to figure out what was wrong with their son.
“When we would bring him into the doctor’s office, we were told that he had gastroenteritis or that he had the flu, but another strain of flu because he didn’t test positive for anything,” said Kayla. “As soon as he tested negative for Covid-19, it was like ‘Oh, he’s okay, it’s just a regular toddler thing’.”
With Grayson’s symptoms getting worse, his parents made the decision to visit his doctor again to try to pinpoint the problem.
“We went to Lompoc Valley Medical Center that day to a follow-up appointment on June 8th from there he had been diagnosed with gastroenteritis and croup,” said Kayla. “I was talking to his doctor and we went through a whole list of things that it could be and she finally decided that it was migraines because I had a long history of migraines.”
Since the doctor wanted to rule out all of the possible things it could be, an urgent Magnetic Resonance Imaging was ordered and the results would take a couple of weeks to get back.
“I didn’t think anything of it when she first said it, until she called for an urgent MRI,” Kayla said.
While waiting for the results, the Cates held on to hope that it was something minor that was wrong with Grayson.
“You don’t get a call from a doctor asking you to come talk in person unless it’s something serious,” said Kayla. “I immediately started thinking he has cancer and Tyler talked me down saying that it could be something else, like diabetes.”
Grayson’s doctor arranged for a nurse to play with him while she talked to the Cates about their next possible moves.
“She pulled up the images and told us that it was a tumor, a posterior fossa next to his cerebellum,” said Kayla. “It’s one of the most common locations in children.”
As soon as the family was given the diagnosis, they went to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where the family was told that Grayson couldn’t leave and for Tyler to immediately grab enough clothes to last a week from home.
“We were met by neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologist, interns and residents,” said Kayla. “We did more imaging and we were able to see the tumor better in the new images where it showed the tumor going down into his spine.”
After receiving this terrible news, the Cates’ friends were a big help to them in their time of need. As soon as they heard about the diagnosis, they jumped into action to help while the Cates’ attended Grayson’s doctors’ appointment.
“They dropped their plans that weekend just so they could watch our dogs, which turned into seven months,” said Kayla. “They never asked for a penny, even though we offered multiple times.”
Under the advice of their doctors, the Cates elected for Grayson to have surgery on June 11, 2021.
After the surgery, he worked diligently during therapy sessions and within a few days he was back talking again even though sometimes his words would not always be what he was trying to say. Grayson attended many therapies: speech, physical and behavioral.
Grayson continued to work hard in therapy and get treatments until he was able to finally come home Jan. 13, 2022, seven months later. A couple of weeks later, he would get showered with love and support from his family, friends and neighbors in the Vandenberg community to celebrate his return home.