Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality can often be the ideal option for pediatric cancer.
BIRTHDAY DISRUPTED BY HURRICANE IRMA
George Woodall, a young boy from the UK who has been battling cancer for 9 months, had his fifth birthday interrupted by Hurricane Irma while he was out in Florida receiving specialist cancer treatment.
George Woodall was diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor lodged near the base of his spine in January. He travelled to Jacksonville with his family earlier this year so he could receive specialist proton therapy. George is still too young to fully understand the treatment he is undergoing, but it was revealed by doctors that chemo would never have saved him, making the Woodall’s family journey to America for proton treatment all the more important. George’s parents “couldn’t be more proud” of their “little superstar” as he bravely endures gruelling chemo and patiently undergoes advanced radiation therapy in a bid to beat the cancerous tumor. His mother said: “The side effects of everything from the chemo, his surgery and now the proton therapy, as you can imagine, have been quite something to deal with. With adults you can at least explain and rationalise things to them. Explaining it all to a child, not least watch them endure and go through the excruciating pain of it all, is something else.” Last week, George was due to celebrate his fifth birthday at Disney World in Florida, but Hurricane Irma battered his temporary home in the USA and forced the him, his older brother Alex and his parents to take cover as the worst of the weather raged overhead. His mom said: “He still had fun anyway as we threw an impromptu party the day before with a couple of locals we’ve made friends with and made the hurricane an adventure ‘camping’ in our closet.”
MEDULLOBLASTOMA PEDIATRIC SURVIVOR
Ava Jacobs, 10 years old, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma when she was just one. She is now a survivor thanks to proton therapy, which has helped many children and adolescents with cancer go on to live healthy lives with limited side effects.
While completing a routine checkup, Ava’s pediatrician noticed something out of the ordinary for a one-year-old: her head was two centimeters larger than the norm. Although it might not seem significant, her pediatrician was concerned and ordered a CT scan, which revealed a medulloblastoma tumor that consumed 75% of her cerebellum. The predicted outcome using traditional radiation for the tumor was not very promising. During Ava’s 5 months of chemotherapy, her parents began researching different forms of treatment and discovered proton therapy. Ava received a total of 25 proton therapy treatments, and during her time at the treatment center, she bonded with the staff and became best friends with another patient named Joshua. Unfortunately, Joshua lost his fight against cancer, but Ava drew inspiration from this loss and honored her best friend by writing a song in his memory. Now, 10-year-old Ava is busy singing, writing and performing in the theater. Her other talents include playing the piano and guitar. Proton therapy helped her overcome her diagnosis, and she’s now back to enjoying life.
RHABDOMYOSARCOMA PEDIATRIC SURVIVOR
Bree Burke is a 10-year-old cancer survivor. Diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in her orbit when she was just 5, she underwent 25 proton therapy treatments and is now cancer free.
For about two weeks, Bree Burke had what looked like a stye or an eye infection. As ber ophthalmologist suspected something more, in August of 2012, a CT scan revealed a rhabdomysarcoma in her orbit. Given the tumor location in Bree’s head, it was decided that proton therapy would be the best treatment option for her, as it would be able to precisely target the tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Fortunately for Bree, who lives in Texas, there was a proton therapy center to travel to for treatment not too far from home. In the evenings, Bree and her sister Blayne would jump in the family car with snacks in-hand as their mom drove them to the proton center for treatment. “We were extremely fortunate to be so close to medical care,” Bree’s mom said. “The girls and I would listen to Christmas CDs on the way to the center and sing along to ‘Silent Night’ and ‘All I want for Christmas,” she recalls. Rather than letting cancer bring her down, Bree chose to fight it with a positive attitude, which proved to make a big difference during her treatment. She completed a total of 25 proton therapy treatments, and to celebrate the end of treatment, Bree treated everyone in attendance with a pizza party and cookies. The jovial 10-year-old will soon begin 5th grade and continue her dancing in ballet, jazz and tap. When she’s not dancing, she is busy in her craft room creating prayer boxes or drawings.