Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping young patients in their battle against cancer and giving hope to their families.
LIFE-SAVING TREATMENT FOR BRAVE MOLLY
Molly Fleming, a brave 4-year-old girl from Beech Hill in the UK who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer called ependymoma, is set to fly to the USA for proton therapy.
Molly was diagnosed after she started suffering from severe headaches, lethargy and foggy eyesight. She was rushed to the hospital, where a scan revealed a brain tumor. A biopsy quickly revealed a cancerous tumor and the only treatment option was a flight to either Jacksonville in Florida or Oklahoma for proton beam therapy. “The rare and aggressive brain cancer is why she needs the proton beam therapy, because it’s more accurate than anything we’ve got over here,” Molly’s dad said. The little girl will need to spend about 9 weeks in the US for treatment. Her parents are now raising around £5,000 to pay the costs associated with living stateside for more than 2 months while Molly has the treatment. Her dad said: “Molly has done really well, she’s very brave. She’s been quite sick and it has affected her speech a bit but she still tells her brothers off and sends me out on errands to get McDonald’s and Pringles for her. We’re very proud of her.” The Beech Hill community has rallied round to help the Flemings reach their £5,000 total on hearing of Molly’s cancer battle. Her dad says the support from people in the local area has been incredible, with more than £3,500 donated to the campaign in less than a week. He said: “We’ve been overwhelmed. We’re really grateful for all the help and donations and we’re a bit lost for words.”
SURVIVING MESOTHELIOMA WITH PROTON THERAPY
Yvette King, a 52-year-old cancer survivor from Maryland who did not take her pleural mesothelioma diagnosis sitting down, wants to use her strength and story to help others battling this aggressive cancer.
In October 2015, Yvette began struggling with breathing and developed a painful cough. Her doctor found a mass on her lung and she was immediately admitted to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with stage III pleural mesothelioma. The next few weeks were filled with chemotherapy to shrink the golf-ball-sized tumor on her lung. Two months into her mesothelioma treatment, King learned the tumor shrunk enough for her to qualify for surgery and underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In March 2016, she started 6 weeks of radiation therapy at Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). The center was nearly 40 minutes from her home, so naturally it was overwhelming to make this commute daily, but Hope Lodge made it possible for her to stay near her cancer center throughout her radiation treatments. As an avid runner, Yvette credits her survivorship to exercise, God and becoming her own advocate. After her diagnosis, she launched an online journal to share her story. Between her medical team at MPTC, the warm folks at Hope Lodge, her extraordinary nurses and other survivors she’s met along the way, it’s her desire to inspire and help others that drives her today.
ALEXIS’ NEW TUMOR SHRUNK BY HALF
15-year-old Alexis Shapiro first underwent surgery in 2011 to remove a benign brain tumor, which damaged her brain and resulted in hypothalamic obesity. So when her family found out the tumor had returned, they kept her out of the operating room.
Alexis first underwent surgery in 2011 to remove the brain tumor, which resulted in a damaged hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls when a person feels hungry or full. Within months she developed hypothalamic obesity, a rare condition that caused her to gain weight uncontrollably. She dealt with constant pain and fatigue and had limited mobility, and despite drastic changes to her diet and exercise routine, she could not lose the weight. Concerned for her life, the Shapiros decided to try weight-loss surgery as a last resort. Then they found out the tumor had returned. “We didn’t want her to have to go through another brain surgery,” her mom said. As an alternative, they applied to an intense, 6-week proton radiation study at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Applying for proton therapy was a gamble, but her mom says she is so thankful they did. Beyond the tumor shrinking by half, there was another, unexpected benefit for Alexis: “She was surrounded by kids with her same condition and never felt like an outcast. She got to be a real teenager,” her mom said. These days, Alexis stays in touch with them through social media. And moral support is important for her, who has gained back the 60 lbs. she initially lost after the weight-loss surgeries. But her mom says overall, she is doing well. She also has a great goal up ahead: attending high school. In the fall she will return to public school after being mostly home-schooled for the past few years. “I think she is pretty nervous. She is a little more outgoing since she’s made these friends at proton therapy. It increased her confidence,” says her mom, who keeps supporters updated through a “Hope and love for Alexis” Facebook page.