Newborn baby in Dodgeville stays “Tucker Tough” during battle with cancer

Tucker Brugger was diagnosed with neuroblastoma on August 10 at just 6-weeks-old
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 11:26 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT
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DODGEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) -On August 10, a family in Dodgeville received some awful, life-changing news: their 6-week-old son Tucker has cancer.

“We both just sat on the couch in the room and looked at each other and cried,” said Anica Brugger, Tucker’s mom.

“Cancer is not something you should hear when you’re six weeks old,” added Mark Brugger, Tucker’s dad.

Tucker was born on June 29 with no indication that anything was wrong. But six weeks later, Anica noticed that Tucker wasn’t moving his legs.

“It reminded me of a frog where he would keep his legs up and open and very relaxed and his hips had no elasticity or anything,” she said.

Tucker spent 13 days in the hospital after his surgery
Tucker spent 13 days in the hospital after his surgery(Anica Brugger)

The family took Tucker to the emergency room, and he eventually underwent an MRI on his spine.

“We went up to the room and about five minutes after that, we were told that our son had cancer,” said Mark getting emotional. “So, it was pretty hard.”

As soon as the Bruggers received the diagnosis, doctors wanted to operate to remove a portion of a tumor in his back.

“In his case, the tumor actually got into his spinal canal and was compressing on his spinal cord which was interfering with his ability for him to move his legs,” said Dr. Christian Capitini, an oncologist with American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

Dr. Capitini says Tucker has neuroblastoma, a type of cancer often found in the abdomen. Surgeons removed about a third of the tumor during the four-hour emergency surgery.

“From hearing that he had a tumor to him going to surgery was about 10 minutes,” said Anica. “They took him right away and we sat there in utter shock.”

“We sat on the couch and prayed hard,” said Mark. “Thought of the worst, hoped for the best. Four hours seemed like a week, the longest four hours of my life for sure.”

The surgery was success and Tucker spent the next 13 days in the hospital. Tucker is now back at home with mom and dad and his loving big sister Brinley. The family is using the motto “Tucker Tough” to describe their cancer journey.

Tucker is now recovering at home with his family. Dad Mark, Mom Anica, and big sister Brinley
Tucker is now recovering at home with his family. Dad Mark, Mom Anica, and big sister Brinley(Anica Brugger)

“He’s a trooper. He’s definitely the strongest 6-week-old I’ve ever seen,” said Mark.

Doctors say they’re unsure how Tucker’s legs will respond to the surgery. But in the short time since the tumor was removed, Mark and Anica say his little legs have come to life.

“Within three days after surgery, he started moving his legs,” said Anica. “They said because it was on the spinal cord, they didn’t know if he would ever get leg function back. But he’s proven us wrong,”

“We are hopeful there will be some neurological recovery, but it’s very early to tell and it may take him years to have full neurologic function,” added Dr. Capitini.

Anica and Mark say since his surgery, Tucker has been doing extremely well. He’s eating a lot, too.

“He has just been in good spirits, and he’s been smiling and cooing and just an amazing little champ,” said Anica.

Tucker is one happy baby
Tucker is one happy baby(Anica Brugger)

Tucker is now 8-weeks-old is undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Doctors hope chemo will essentially eradicate what’s left of the tumor. Dr. Capitini says Tucker’s prognosis is good.

“87% to 88% of kids at three and five years had no evidence of relapse of disease, so it’s a really good prognosis,” said Dr. Capitini.

If you’d like to help the Brugger family with Tucker’s medical bills, you can send money via Venmo to @Anica-Brugger. The code is 4538.

You can also donate at Dodgeville Heartland Credit Union. You can send cash or checks made payable to Anica or Mark Brugger (not to Tucker). The credit union is located at 1205 Joseph St., Dodgeville, WI 53533.

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