Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping young cancer patients overcome life-threatening challenges.
BRAIN CANCER DIAGNOSIS AFTER FATHER’S DAY
When Katie Funtila, 9-year-old, started complaining about headaches, her dad Moises convinced her doctors something was wrong and she was diagnosed with a type of brain tumor called medulloblastoma the day after Father’s Day last year.
Katie’s dad Moises, a former Marine and Air Force member, served in military hospitals as a medical care worker for 22 years. So when his daughter, then 8, complained of painful headaches, nausea, and vomiting, his training led him to suspect that she might have a brain tumor. But his biggest battle was convincing her doctors, who were quick to dismiss his concerns. Finally, Katie was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in June 2017. Medulloblastoma is more common in children than adults and accounts for roughly 20% of all pediatric brain tumor cases. Usually, patients undergo surgery to have the tumor removed, followed by radiation or chemotherapy. After Katie was diagnosed, Moises quit his job as a bank manager to become a stay-at-home dad to his four other children, while his wife Kimberly accompanied Katie to Memphis, TN, where she received proton radiation therapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. While Moises and his wife managed to support themselves via his compensation from the VA and help from his church, as well as donations from a GoFundMe account, about 25% of parents of kids battling cancer lose up to 40% of their income, due to taking time off work and the medical costs of caring for a sick child. “I’m really thankful for everybody that we’ve come in contact with, from Stanford to our local community to St. Jude. I’ve realized there’s this whole other world, and this experience also brought to light the goodness in people,” her dad said.
Kate is 21-year-old young woman from Adelaide in South Australia. She was diagnosed with a brain cancer after suffering from severe headaches and hearing issues and now needs state-of-the-art proton therapy. Here is her testimony.
“At the ages of 18 and 19, I underwent multiple surgeries for what doctors believed would fix the severe headaches and hearing issues I had been having. In July 2016 I my Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon told me they found a tumor the size of a tennis ball in my brain. In October I underwent a 13-hour brain surgery, but the tumor could not totally be removed because it was entangled in my brain’s major nerves. As a result, I have no sensation in the right side of my face, including my teeth, gums, eye, and even my ear. Ever since the surgery I have been having MRI’s to monitor the remaining tumor. Unfortunately there has been some worrying growth, which means that I need treatment before it gets large again and affects my eyesight. I have been told I need immediate proton therapy, but Australia won’t offer this type of treatment until 2022. This will be too late for me. The only solution is to travel to America or Europe. I do not qualify for the Medical Treatment Overseas Program because it is not life threatening. But the thought of going blind is a major threat to me. I have started this Fundraising Campaign to help raise whatever I can to help my family cover the cost of my treatment, flights and accommodation and to help create awareness about this Proton Therapy Beam Machine.” To donate, click on the link below.
SPECIAL DAY FOR PROTON PRINCESS
Brixton Henfield, a 6-year-old girl who has been fighting rhabdomyosarcoma for the last year, was offered a special day at the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
Despite her young age, Brixton knows a little about what is harmless and what is not. In May 2017, she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare malignant tumor involving muscle tissue. After the cancer metastasized she began chemotherapy treatment at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, as well as proton therapy at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. Proton therapy is a method of radiation treatment that more precisely attacks a tumor while causing less damage to surrounding healthy tissue. It is particularly important in the treatment of pediatric patients, because of all the developing tissue structures and the potential reduction of long-term side effects. On the last day of her treatment, Brixton participated in the Proton Center’s “Magic Castle” program, where one of the center’s radiation therapists dresses up as a princess and grants the patient’s wish. She was to meet some of the animals she adores. “The animals are cute, and I love them so much,” she said before she began her interactive animal experience. Following her table session with terrestrial animals, she got a guided tour of the entire aquarium, starting in the buildings underwater viewing area, where she got to see her favorite fish, the blue surgeonfish, better known as the “Dory fish,” from the “Finding Nemo” franchise. “To see her smile and have so much fun with them, especially with everything that she’s been through and still going through,” her mom said. “We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. It’s good to take your mind off of doctor visits, hospital stays, hopefully some of those are behind us.”