Natalie Wright, 17, of Provo, Utah is hopeful the completion of proton therapy she received at a San Diego hospital will curb the growth of her tumor. Natalie was the first teen to finish the treatment at the hospital.
When Natalie was 2, a walnut-sized tumor was found above her brain stem after her parents noticed she was drooling a lot and had trouble swallowing. A few days later, doctors removed most of the tumor but some pieces were inoperable. Over the next decade and a half, she underwent two more operations, which left her without the ability to swallow and without sight and hearing on her left side.
Cancer patients usually have three options for treatment: surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Most children do not receive radiation because it may affect parts of their bodies that are still developing. Natalie’s dad also became aware of proton therapy as a fourth option, but with only two facilities in the nation using it at the time, this was not an option for their family.
In 2014, the Wrights learned that Natalie’s tumor had again grown. The growth of proton therapy clinics allowed Natalie to be treated at the Rady Children’s Hospital at Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego, which opened earlier this year. She finished her final treatment last week and said she felt good overall through the six-week treatment. The tumor is still there, but Natalie, her parents and her doctor are hopeful they have stopped its growth. It will take up to five years for the family to find out whether proton therapy stopped the tumor’s growth.