Malibu Inn hosts benefit celebration for local boy

Seven-year-old Christian Pierce survived a rare brain cancer and has returned to Malibu after missing six months of school.

By Vicki Godal / Special to The Malibu Times

Recently, seven-year-old Christian Pierce and his mother returned to Malibu.

Christian, who likes Harry Potter and is a trained Jedi knight, was diagnosed last summer with brain cancer called medulloblastoma. While attending Angels baseball camp, Christian was rushed to Westwood’s UCLA Medical Center where a 4×5 cm tumor was removed from the back of his head. Pierce’s mother, Beth Lucas, said that initially Christian’s symptoms were misdiagnosed. He was diagnosed with gastric reflux.

“Brain tumors are rare in children. Some pediatricians never see one in a lifetime,” Lucas said. “What you have is a blockage in the head. Fluid builds up around it and puts pressure on the spinal cord. This becomes hydrocephalus. The body tries to relieve the pressure by dehydrating itself. That causes vomiting. Unfortunately, vomiting is a symptom that’s easy to misdiagnose.”

After the surgery, Christian’s parents consulted with top pediatric oncologists trying to determine the best treatment to destroy the cancer. The consensus for Christian was full head and spine radiation treatments at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.


“They had the best treatments with shortest side effects, and shorter-term side effects were a big consideration,” Lucas said.

Christian, cancer-free, is back at Webster Elementary after missing six months of school. As the family returns to its daily routines, uncertainty about his health remains constant.

“Christian received whole head and spine radiation. Children who receive radiation treatment, especially to the brain under the age of seven, will have some level of cognitive impact. This impact can progressively worsen with time, typically within the first five years post treatment,” Lucas said. “Areas impacted include reading, math, memory, processing speed, meaning they need more time to take tests, and organizational skills. Christian may be facing years of educational challenges and ongoing therapy.”

The treatment and recovery process has drained the family’s finances, so, in tribute to Pierce and his family, Malibu resident NiColle Holland has organized a benefit for the Christian Pierce Trust Fund hosted by the Malibu Inn on Saturday, May 6, beginning at 5 p.m. for all ages.

“This event is a celebration for the family.” Holland said. “I want them to walk away from this knowing that if anything happens to their family that this community, this little town will be there for them. Malibu’s got their backs.”

Holland’s daughter, Amber, five, has worked alongside her mom on invitations, decorations and calling people. Holland’s son, Cajun, is Christian’s best friend. Cajun spoke to Christian and his mom while they were at St. Jude’s. With the assurance of a seven-year-old, Cajun told Lucas, “Christian’s tough. He’s gonna be okay.”

Lucas told Holland that the conversation helped give her strength. “She said to me, ‘You know what, he is tough. He can whip this thing.'”

Both families attend Malibu Presbyterian Church. The church approached Lucas with offers of assistance shortly after Christian was diagnosed. Lucas accepted in the form of prayer.

“Beth didn’t want anything from our church but prayers for Christian,” Holland said. “At church, even the children were given little teddy bears with a short prayer for Christian on them that they can say at night.”

Malibu Presbyterian’s prayers for Christian have turned into a worldwide prayer circle.

“I think the better portion of Malibu is aware of and has been praying for Christian. People across the county in Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland, Nebraska and North Carolina are praying for him, as well as in Mexico, in South America and Europe,” Lucas said.

Lucas and Christian stayed with church members’ families during treatments at St. Judes. The Littles family in Malibu had relatives in Memphis. Lucas stayed with them during Christian’s treatment, and Christian played with the family’s children. “Christian’s occupational therapist stressed the need for consistent play dates as much as Christian was able to during treatments,” Lucas said. “He was able to play with these kids anytime.”

Now, Christian faces the journey of repairing his brain through occupational therapy. Holland created this benefit to help fund his recovery and the maintenance thereof.

Saturday’s event activities at Malibu Inn will include dinner, music and a silent auction. Musical entertainment will include the sons of Beach Boys’ Carl and Dennis Wilson in the band, In Bloom, with several other musical acts. Malibu locals, merchants and groups helping with the events include the Malibu Chronicles and the Boys and Girls Club, providing items like four-box seats at the Hollywood Bowl to see the Dave Matthews Band, celebrity chef cooking lessons, a cameo appearance on a show, plane tickets, limo rides and hotel accommodations.

Tickets are $25 adults, $20 children. More information on the Christian Pierce Trust Fund or the benefit can be obtained by calling 310.317.8644. To read Lucas’ journal about Christian’s condition and treatment, visit the Web site: Log in under Visit a Caring Bridge site, and type christianpierce in the site box.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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