Press Review – Young Danny, flies to USA for vital cancer therapy

Seven-year-old Danny King was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2011. His parents have set up an appeal for funds to help them go to America, where their son can get the treatment he needs.

Danny suffered for weeks before he was diagnosed, at the age of six. « He had sickness and diarrhoea one night », his mom Mandy says. For at least eight hours he had excruciating pain. I took him to the doctor but at the time there was a sickness bug going around so they put it down to that and it carried on for another nine weeks, one night a week. »

« I knew it must be more than a bug. Then one evening when he was watching TV, he was holding his eye shut and I asked him ‘why are you holding your eye like that?’ and he said, ‘cause that one sees two. I took him to the opticians and he said straight away to go down to the hospital. »

A scan found the tumor and fluid on his brain. Even so he went through surgery to remove the fluid, the tumor continued to affect his memory and movement, pushing on his nerves. In November 2012, a scan revealed the tumor was cancerous and growing.

It was decided that the best therapy was proton therapy, not yet available in the UK. Danny’s parents are now taking him to Florida for a three month course of daily treatment. The NHS is paying for the flights, accommodation and treatment but Mandy and Gary need to raise around £10,000 for day-to-day expenses and they need to leave money with their 14-year-old son, Billy, who will stay with his adult brother.

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Press Review – Prostate Cancer Survivor positively impressed by proton therapy

When Gerard Bartasavich went for his annual physical exam, he mentioned to his doctor that he seemed to be urinating more than normal. A few days later, out of nowhere, he learned he had aggressive prostate cancer.

It was April 2008 when Bart discovered he was sick. He was 56 years old. “The phone just dropped, my mouth dropped,” he recalled. “I was just totally stunned.” Soon, he was advised by his urologists that removing his prostate was the best option, even if there was a chance he would need diapers for the rest of his life, and that he wouldn’t be able to function sexually.

Bart was familiar with proton therapy, as a family friend had received it in California, and he began to discuss the possible treatment with some of his doctors, who advised against it (too expensive, too dangerous regarding his medical history,…). He kept on searching, but due to the aggressive nature of his prostate cancer, Bart was rejected by a first proton therapy provider.

Then he discovered the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Ind., which was reasonably close to his home in Ohio. “It was brand new, and they took the worst cases,” Bart recalled. “They were concerned about the patient, and that was the turning point for me.”

Bart began undergoing treatment at the IU Health Proton Therapy Center in September 2008. “Initially, I was scared to death. I was actually petrified.” During his treatment, Bart continued to go about his life as normally as possible. He and his wife, Vera, would go out to eat, go for walks and enjoy the beautiful state parks in the area. Bart refers to it as his “radiation vacation.”

Bart was impressed by the personable nature of the staff at the center. “It wasn’t uncommon for a doctor or one of the staff to yell out, ‘Hi Bart’,” he said.  “When you were there, you felt like a friend versus a patient.”

After Bart’s successful treatment, he returned to Ohio to spend time pursuing his love of woodworking and classic Thunderbird cars. He still keeps in touch with the staff and fellow patients he met during his treatment. He is an advocate for proton therapy. “I was totally impressed with the treatment I had.”

Sources:

  • http://iuhealthprotontherapy.org/patient-stories/prostate-cancer-bartasavich/

Proton therapy patients testify

Proton therapy is a state of the art treatment option for cancer patients. But aside from the scientific aspects, it is also important to know about the patient experience and learn from people who actually went through the process. Find out about Martha and Rob’s stories…

Martha, Delaware, USA, underwent proton therapy for a brain tumor :

« I woke up one night and I couldn’t hold anything down, I was sick, I had a tremendous headache… So I went to the emergency room of the local hospital, and just as I went to sign in I passed out. » It turned out Martha had a brain tumor. As all the cancer cells couldn’t be removed surgically, she was a candidate for proton radiations. « This journey has made us stronger », says her husband, « because we realized how much we needed each other. Proton therapy gives us a better quality of time because she’s not down with radiation sickness. She can take a treatment today and then this afternoon go some place and do something, and to me that’s just amazing because 3 years ago, when she had her first tumor, it wasn’t that way at all. » Martha tells « Once, I was at the grocery store and I told a lady I had brain cancer… She said that I looked too good to be sick ! »

Rob underwent proton therapy for pancreatic cancer :

« I had testicular cancer when I was 22 and went 33 years without any problem. » In 2011, his doctor called to announce he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, with an average survical rate of 6 to 8 months. « It was crazy, I was absolutely feeling fine » he says. « The wonderful thing about proton therapy is that it gave me hope. I’ve never felt sick or like I was terminal. I wanted to fight. Right after my 29th session of proton therapy, my daughter delivered my first grand child. The seven months that I’ve had since the proton therapy were some of the best months my wife and I have ever had… Being able to go the beach, play golf, ride my bike again… I believe that the proton therapy and my doctor have extended my life. Will I be cured some day ? I think so. I know the statistics aren’t there but the statistics are for other people, not for me. »

To learn about more patients’ stories, go to http://www.oncolink.org/treatment/article.cfm?id=538&s=70&c=9