‘Thank you for everything’: Mississippi River communities rally around family of 3-year-old son with brain tumor

Published 7:04 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

Watson Lane Calhoun is only 3 years old, but he’s already a hero to his parents.

Speaking from a hallway of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Tennessee, Watson’s mother, Melissa Calhoun, talked about her brave boy who was that moment undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test in another room.

“He’s had a traumatic life already,” she said of Watson. “He was born two months early, was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), needed a blood transfusion due to an illness from me that I caught from my other son while pregnant … and now this.”

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“This” doesn’t have a name yet. It all started a few weeks ago, when Melissa wasn’t feeling well and tested positive for a strep throat infection.

Then Watson said he wasn’t feeling very good, either. He was having horrible headaches two to three times a day. He, too, later tested positive for strep, but he didn’t get better. Though antibiotics were prescribed, he wasn’t healing. And the headaches continued.

Watson was taken to the emergency room in a Baton Rouge hospital; it was there his parents, Melissa Calhoun and Casey Calhoun, found out their son had a brain tumor.

The family was sent to Le Bonheur’s and his brain tumor was removed last week. “We don’t know much else about it yet, but we know it was an aggressive tumor and it was cancerous,” Melissa said, her strong voice bearing truth to her Mama Bear sensibilities. They had hoped to get more information on Friday.

Since this all started, Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday residents have done what they’ve always done best – they acted. “I think every church has reached out to us,” Melissa said. “So many people have prayed for us, and we are so thankful. The outpouring of love and support from our community and all over has completely blown me away.”

Melissa, who is from Vidalia, works for Reed Insurance. Casey, who is from Ferriday, is employed by Delta Oil Tools. They both feel grateful about the care, prayers and donations people have offered them since Watson became sick.

Watson – who has an older brother, Ryland McClung, 9, and a younger brother, Richard Calhoun, 1, as well as another paternal sibling on the way – has been lifted up by his community. A GoFundMe kicked off online. Local businesses held fundraisers. Local baker Dawn Moss is making king cakes that will specifically benefit Watson and his family. Reed Insurance featured a Facebook Live event on the day of Watson’s surgery so that anyone who wanted to participate in prayer for the boy could do so with others.

On her Facebook page, Melissa said, “I will never be able to thank everyone enough for everything that has been done for [us]. This has been the most trying and hardest thing I have ever dealt with and each one of y’all have made it easier every day. Thank y’all from the bottom of my heart.”

On Facebook, Casey thanked those sending prayers for his son and the whole extended family. “Thanks to all the churches and businesses in the Miss-Lou, surrounding areas, and all over the world that have held prayer meetings for Watson. Thank you Shawn-Aimee McMillan from Feed The Hungry-The River Assembly and Beaux Pilgrim and Beth Reed Pilgrim for driving to Baton Rouge to visit and pray. And thank you to Brother Jeremy Howington and Matt from The Pentecostals of the Miss-Lou for driving to Memphis to pray over us and Watson before surgery. Also, Reed Insurance for hosting the prayer meeting at your office. We cannot thank y’all enough!”

Melissa said she is used to seeing Watson deal with issues, even before he was born. She hates seeing him suffer, but finds strength in the outpouring of love and care from her community. It was something that she knows is not out of character for the area in which her family lives.

“I’m not surprised at all,” she said. “Everyone in this area always comes out to help when someone is in need. It’s really hard to not know what we are dealing with and both of us are away from our other children, but more people than I even know existed have reached out to us. That includes here in Tennessee.

“I can’t put it all into words, but thank you for everything. Thank you.”

On Thursday, Watson also had a hearing test as well as a spinal fluid check to see if there are any cancer cells in his spine and to get results of all the tests.

“At that point, we will have a treatment planned laid out for us,” Melissa said, determination in her voice.

A Go Fund Me account has been setup to help the family offset their expenses as they miss work to help care for Watson.