Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is giving hope and allowing cancer patients to raise awareness about this life-threatening disease.
MOM TAKES CHILD CANCER BATTLE TO HOLYROOD
Niamh Yates, a 16-year-old teenager from the UK who was diagnosed with an undifferentiated sarcoma on her lower spine when she was 12, took child cancer campaign Glow Gold September to the Scottish Parliament with her mom.
Since her diagnosis, Niamh has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and then proton beam therapy in Florida. She has been in remission since November 2012, and her battle inspired her mom Julie to start campaigning for more support for children with cancer and their families. The Glow Gold September campaign, an international effort to help raise awareness, headed for Holyrood, and Julie and Niamh joined East Lothian MSP Iain Gray at the Scottish Parliament to watch a debate by MSPs who highlighted the campaign, its important messages about childhood cancer and the support needed by children and families affected by it. Julie said: “We want to improve the profile of childhood cancer in line with that of the more well-known adult cancers”. Mr Gray said he was delighted to meet up with Julie and Niamh at the Scottish Parliament. “Julie and the other campaigners have done a remarkable job promoting this campaign and helping to raise awareness about childhood cancer. Their hard work has helped to ensure the Glow Gold message has been heard loud and clear. I’ll continue to support the campaign and do all I can to help promote awareness about childhood cancer.
PILOT SHARES STRUGGLE WITH BREAST CANCER
Mac Holmes, a 60-year-old FedEx pilot, first heard the words “you have cancer” in 2012. But it was what came next that shocked him the most.
It started rather harmlessly with a small lump on his chest. “I wasn’t too worried because I have lumps all over my body and had been monitored by flight surgeons for years,” Mac said. This time was different: when Mac’s nipple started to invert, his wife urged him to have it checked out by a doctor. When he found out he had breast cancer, he was stunned, as male breast cancer accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancer cases. Mac had a mastectomy to remove his left breast, and additional surgery to remove his lymph nodes. Chemotherapy followed the surgery, along with more tests and a variety of different medications. After months of treatment, he received the news he had been waiting to hear ever since the original diagnosis: he was cancer free. But the relief was short lived: just 18 months later, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He received proton therapy before again being declared cancer free. “This was much easier than my breast cancer treatment,” Mac said. “We called my treatment ‘radiation vacation’ because we got to spend six weeks in Houston next to a golf course, visited the Houston Zoo and took day trips to the ocean.” Since then, Mac has been visiting his doctor for regular checkups, but unfortunately, his breast cancer has now reached metastasized stage 4. Through the course of his journey, he has become an advocate for breast cancer awareness and metastatic research. He continues to research and learn about breast cancer and metastasis in hopes of making a difference for others that are experiencing his fight.
THE STORY OF A 3-TIME CANCER SURVIVOR FIREFIGHTER
63-year-old Lorenzo Abundiz was born to be a firefighter. Tall, strong and fearless, he spent 27 years in the fire service and earned a Medal of Valor for rescuing 2 firemen buried under a collapsed wall in 1990.
Lorenzo emerged from his 1990 rescue feeling invincible, but it all came crashing down 8 years later when he was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare and highly aggressive soft-tissue cancer that had been caused by his daring rescue. “The doctors told me I had a 4% chance of survival.” It took 30 days for Lorenzo’s personal insurance to approve a surgery to remove his tumor, but during this time, he grew a second tumor the size of a golf ball. It took two surgeries and extensive radiation, but Lorenzo beat leiomyosarcoma in September 2003. One month later, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. “My doctors asked if I had been a smoker and I said I’d never smoked a day in my life, but I’d breathed in a lot of smoke while standing on roofs to fight fires.” This led Lorenzo and his doctors to strongly suspect that this cancer, much like his first, was brought on by the toxic exposure all firefighters face on a daily basis. From his hospital bed, Lorenzo resolved to travel the country sharing his experiences at firehouses and created the nonprofit Code 3 for a Cure to raise awareness of occupational cancer. He continued his work with the foundation even through a third cancer battle, this time with prostate cancer in 2008. The following year, he underwent 6 months of treatment at MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center in Houston, Texas. The Houston fire department provided the veteran firefighter with housing for the duration of his treatment and helped him through his third cancer battle.