On January 16, 2004, the Sickler family was told something unimaginable. They were told that their son, David, was going to pass away, it was only a matter of when. David Sickler, lovingly known as Brave Dave, of Mandan was diagnosed with DIPG, Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), which is a tumor in the middle of the brain stem. There is no cure for DIPG. David's parents noticed that he had a "floating" right eye, where his left eye would remain stationary and his right eye would turn in. After trips to their pediatrician, an ophthalmologist and a pediatric neurologist, they believed it could be strabismus, but needed an MRI to rule out everything else. Unfortunately, the doctors were wrong and upon finding the tumor, knew that David was in immediate danger.
Within an hour, David and his family were on their way to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. David's mother Lora best described it as "a living nightmare". Over the next several months, David would endure 31 rounds of radiation in an attempt to shrink the tumor. Doctors told his parents this would help with his symptoms and give them a little more time with their sweet boy. Initially doctors said that David would need to be sedated for each round of radiation, as he would need to remain perfectly still throughout the treatment. David showed them all! From his first appointment, David hopped up onto the table and laid completely still throughout the entire time. He never once needed to be sedated! After his first appointment his mom told him just how incredibly brave he was, and it was at that moment that David proclaimed himself as Brave Dave!
David's treatment also consisted of high dose steroids to keep brain swelling to a minimum. This caused 24-hour hunger, severe mood swings and swelling throughout the rest of David's body. Over the next seven months, David went from being a very active boy who loved playing t-ball, fishing, school and everything to do with Spiderman, to a little boy that lost every function of his body. This of course broke David's family's hearts to watch him quickly lose his abilities to the point that he eventually could no longer eat. On August 23, 2004, at the age of six, David "Brave Dave" Sickler passed away with his family by his side.
Throughout his treatment, David never once lost his courage and never once complained. David taught everyone that knew and loved him the true meaning of compassion, strength and love. He taught others to appreciate their loved ones, for they can be fighting for their lives and gone in the blink of an eye. "There isn't one thing I don't miss about David each and every day,” said his mom, Lora. “I was truly blessed for God to chose me to be David's mom. We love and miss you Brave Dave!”