Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is offering young cancer patients a new chance at life.
A LIFE-SAVING TRIP TO THE OPTICIAN
Lauren Uncles, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Burton, UK underwent a lifesaving operation after a brain tumor was spotted growing behind her eye by her optician.
Lauren was 11 years old when her family decided to treat her to a pair of prescription sunglasses for their upcoming summer holiday. That’s when her optician spotted something unusual. “Halfway through the appointment, the optician said he could see ‘a bit of swelling’ but obviously we know now he could see a lot more”, her mom said. “I wasn’t panicking after what the optician said but we took her to the hospital to have a doctor take a look. I didn’t begin to worry until they pulled her out of the MRI and said she needed to be injected with contrast and go in again.” Following the two scans, doctors pulled the mom aside to say that Lauren had a benign type of brain tumor called craniopharyngioma on her optic nerve and that she needed surgery to remove it. Now 13, Lauren has gone under the knife 4 times and underwent proton therapy in a bid to treat the tumor. However, doctors say they will never be able to remove it properly. Instead, the pretty teen has to keep her brown locks shorn short, because she has a cyst growing on the lump that needs to regularly be drained to stop crippling headaches. Despite it all, her mom Teresa says her little girl has never stopped smiling and is proud of her scars and short hair. “Lauren’s tumor will probably never go away, but at least it’s controlled and Lauren’s happy. She’s back to her normal, smiley self and I couldn’t be luckier for that.”
YOUNG WOMAN WHO UNDERWENT PT DYES HAIR BEFORE CHEMO
Beth Semikin, a 22-year-old woman from the UK, is battling a rare form of cancer called sarcoma. She has decided to “take ownership” of her hair with a drastic color change before she loses it to chemotherapy.
Beth was diagnosed last year with one of the rarest forms of sarcoma called epithelioid sarcoma, which affects young adults between 20 and 39 years old and left her barely able to walk. She had an 11-hour operation to remove the tumor from her back, and then went to the USA for proton beam therapy. For five days a week over nearly three months, she received her treatment in Jacksonville, Florida, returning to her Woodmansterne home in the UK in early February. “My time in America was amazing,” said Beth. “I never would have thought I would want to repeat any of my cancer treatment, but I can say with my hand on my heart I would do it ten times again.” Beth has now begun 18 weeks of chemotherapy. After her first dose, she had a violent reaction causing intense nausea and dizziness and pain to her bladder. “It’s about realising that sometimes there’s no fighting through the day, it’s just about getting through it,” she said. Within the coming weeks, her blonde locks will begin to fall out, but she is accepting of the side effect. She asked for a hairdresser to dye her hair silver and dozens of salons reached out to help her. Beth described it as the “best day I’ve had in forever”. “It was important for me to take ownership of this hair loss.” Beth, who has a good recovery prognosis, continues to detail her moving experiences and raising awareness about sarcoma on her blog Tumour Has It.
YOUNG BOY BATTLING SAME CANCER THAT KILLED HIS DAD
A community in Washington is rallying to the support of a single mom of four, as her 7-year-old son Masen Lopes is battling the same type of brain cancer that killed her husband.
Masen’s dad passed away 3 years ago after a 2-year battle against brain cancer that had grown undetected until he suffered a seizure at home. Months after his dad’s death, it was Masen’s turn to not feel well. “He had drool on the side of his mouth, his eyes just didn’t look normal,” his mom said. “And it was something I’d seen through my husband.” Since his brain cancer diagnosis, Masen has had 4 surgeries, 2 rounds of chemotherapy and 2 rounds of proton therapy. His energetic spirit has the Gig Harbor community rallying around the family, and later this month, they’re throwing him an “epic sleepover” so he can play with friends, just like other kids. “We try and live life without cancer,” his mom said. “Even though it’s basically surrounded us, we just try and live how normal people do.” She has been told the cancer isn’t genetic, and she doesn’t talk about a prognosis. “I don’t believe a person is a statistic,” she said. “So I don’t ask. And I don’t tell them either, although you get the picture. It’s brain cancer, no cure.” Even though the disease is prevalent in their daily lives, they don’t think of themselves as a cancer family. They are a normal family facing extraordinary challenges.