Cannon, 41, had Zen with singer Alyssa Scott, 28, and shared a tearful confession about losing him earlier this month. Now he’s sharing why he decided not to pursue aggressive treatment for the boy.
Cannon told People that he noticed something was wrong a few days after the birth because Zen’s breathing seemed irregular.
“It sounded like he had fluid in his lungs, like a sinus infection or something,” Cannon said. “[The doctors] didn’t think it to be anything too concerning.”
However, they quickly realized there was a problem because the child’s head was “growing too quickly.”
After more tests, doctors realized the baby had a high-grade glioma – a type of tumor in the brain or spinal cord. It was rare and aggressive. Gliomas are difficult to treat, and their cause is unknown.
The parents were devastated upon hearing the results, and one of the most challenging decisions came around when they had to ascertain whether baby Zen had a chance to pull through and what the treatment options would entail.
“We started asking, ‘Is there a way to prevent this? If not, how long do we have?’ ” Cannon said. “The conversations quickly turned to, ‘How can we give him the best life for the time that he does have?’ It could be weeks, it could be months, it could be years.”
Zen’s doctors briefed Cannon on the different ways to tackle the tumor, including chemotherapy – something that Cannon himself has gone through in treating his autoimmune disease lupus.
The parents decided they would try and keep Zen “as happy as he could possibly be” and not put the baby through any invasive procedures.
“We were having quality-of-life conversations,” he said. “We could have had that existence where he would’ve had to live in the hospital, hooked up to machines, for the rest of the time. From someone who’s had to deal with chemotherapy before, I know that pain. To see that happen to a 2-month-old, I didn’t want that. I didn’t want him to suffer.”
Once they reached that decision, the parents made a conscious effort to make Zen’s life as joyous as possible. They took him to Disneyland and celebrated every day that he was around. Things took a dive in late November, though.
“You could tell he was struggling,” Cannon said. “He was gasping for air. We’d wake up, and he wouldn’t be breathing for maybe five to 10 seconds at a time, and then he’d let out a huge gasp. You could see it frightened him. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
After Zen passed, the couple said they were heartbroken. However, Cannon said being a father to Zen was “a great privilege.”
Scott said it was “beautiful and encouraging to see even complete strangers being touched and moved by Zen’s light. Zen’s spirit and light will shine bright forever.”