Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping cancer patients retake control over their lives.
A FAMILY’S CANCER BATTLE
Gemma Edgar and 3-year-old Noah, a mom and son from Colchester in the UK who have both battled cancer, performed ribbon cutting at new ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ as representatives of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).
Gemma was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in October 2014, just 8 weeks after the birth of her second son, Noah. She had emergency surgery the next day, followed by weeks of radiotherapy. A year later, Noah was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of eye cancer affecting babies and children aged under six. He needed surgery to remove his right eye, to save his life, followed by 6 months of intense chemotherapy. He then spent 9 weeks in the USA having proton beam therapy. Noah now wears an artificial eye and has regular MRI scans and examinations under general anaesthetic every four months to check that the cancer hasn’t returned. “Despite his struggles, Noah is now doing really well and is a happy, energetic 3-year-old boy,” said Gemma. “He doesn’t let the fact that he only has one eye stop him at all.” Unfortunately, Gemma’s tumor has regrown and despite currently undergoing treatment, she has just run the London Marathon to raise money for CHECT. She added: “Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself, I think of Noah and the fact he was only a baby when he underwent treatment and he never complained.” Vision Express has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with the charity since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness of retinoblastoma and drive donations for the charity, so they can help more families affected. It was also the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma is suspected.
TROOPER SAVED BY PROTON THERAPY
Mitch Lewis, a 55-year old state trooper from Kotzebue in the US, flew 4350 miles from his home to Prague, Czech Republic for proton beam therapy after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 52.
Mitch, who featured on the TV show ‘Alaska State Troopers’, has a family history of prostate cancer and his grandfather died of the disease. So when his PSA level began to soar, he knew it was time to take action. “I went for a digital exam and they felt an anomaly. Long story short, they found I had cancer with a Gleason score of 7.” Mitch’s options were a surgical prostatectomy, which would mean removing the prostate, or photon treatment. “I figured out pretty quickly that I was not going to have surgery. I came into contact with a man who had and he had been left with incontinence and had to wear a catheter. His sexual function had gone.” As proton beam therapy wasn’t covered on his insurance, Mitch called five different centers in the US to enquire. Each center said treatment would cost between $180,000 and $230,000. Mitch began to research cancer care overseas and he finally landed on the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. “From the start, it was a wonderful experience, and I say that with hindsight. The treatment I got surpassed anything I’ve ever received anywhere in the world,” he said. Mitch received 5 ‘fractions’ of treatment over the course of 2 weeks. When he wasn’t being treated, the father enjoyed seeing the sights. He says the experience has now ‘changed his life’ for the better.
TEEN’S PROTON THERAPY JOURNEY
Back in 2016, at age 11, Kelly finished 6 rounds of proton therapy. The ringing of the chimes marked a significant milestone, as he was one of the first to complete treatment at the Proton Therapy Center at Cincinnati Children’s.
Kelly’s medical journey began 6 months prior with the diagnosis of a brain tumor that was causing a buildup of fluid in his brain. He would undergo major surgery followed by six rounds of chemotherapy. Because of the location of the brain tumor, he became an ideal candidate for proton therapy as the next step. Kelly faced each radiation treatment with a thumbs up. When it came time for the actual treatment, he had to be flat on his back and very still while the proton therapy took place. Fast forward almost two years, Kelly unveils a new look but still has the same upbeat attitude for life. “Considering I was one of the first to do this for Children’s, it felt pretty cool, like discovering new frontier like Lewis and Clark’s trip to the West,” he said. He returns to Cincinnati Children’s for follow up tests every three months to make sure his tumor hasn’t returned. Kelly hopes he can help pave the way for children facing a similar path. “I hope they learn to love people, love parents and love life. Honestly, it kind of almost helps you. It helps you understand that life is precious,” he said.