Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is offering a new chance at life to patients from all over the world.
BRIGHTER TOMORROWS FOR KIDS WITH CANCER
Connor Johnson was diagnosed with medulloblastoma when he was only 13 years old. According to his family, the organization Brighter Tomorrows is one of the main reasons the 15-year-old is now cancer free.
“I was 13 and we went in for an eye checkup just ’cause I was having headaches and vomiting,” Connor remembers. “The doctor scheduled an MRI for the next day, and that’s what diagnosed me.” His parents say they were just as shocked as he was, but they had little time to consider the implications of their youngest child having cancer, as he was rushed to the hospital for a 6-hour brain surgery. A couple weeks later, Connor started 30 sessions of cutting-edge proton therapy, and then 46 weeks of gruelling chemotherapy. But there were times Connor questioned whether he could get through it. And even if staying positive makes a big difference, it can be difficult for the patient and the parents during such a traumatic time. “When you hear those four words: your child has cancer, you life just comes to a screeching halt,” says Sherrie Decker, co-founder of Brighter Tomorrows, an non-profit that provides support and resources to families dealing with pediatric cancer treatment. That’s why she and four other mothers of kids with cancer started their organization. Brighter Tomorrows offers a safe place of understanding for parents to meet other parents, patients to meet other patients and even siblings to meet other siblings all going through the same thing. Most importantly, Brighter Tomorrows hosts monthly events for the kids going through treatment to look forward to. Connor’s dad thinks Brighter Tomorrows’ method of supporting families has made a profound difference for his family. After more than a year of treatment, Connor is now cancer-free and heading back to school with big plans for his future.
STAFF SERGEANT FIGHTING CANCER
On October 19th, Teresa Monteon, a Staff Sergeant in Travis Air Force Base in California, learned that she had a stage 2 unfavorable Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Teresa, a medic from San Jose joined the Air Force in January 2010 and was assigned to work in the ICU at David Grant USAF Medical Center. But in August 2015, she discovered a lump on the left side of her neck that would change everything. “It was probably the size of a golf ball and egg combined, she said.” “I thought it could be cancer.” She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and further tests revealed cancerous tumors on the left side of her neck and chest above her heart. She began chemotherapy in October 2015, and the treatments took a profound effect on her, both physically and mentally. “I was extremely nauseous and tired instantly after the first treatment and I had treatments every two weeks,” she recalls. “That first week after two or three days, my body was really heavy, I had immense fatigue.” She also experienced blisters in her mouth, as well as severe bone and jaw pain. An avid runner and hiker prior to her diagnosis, she shared what it felt like not being able to do the things she loved. Teresa underwent 4 months of chemotherapy receiving her last treatment in February 2016, and also benefited from a month of proton therapy in San Diego. On April 25, 2016, her oncologist told her she was in remission. While she is aware cancer could return to her body, Teresa is wasting no time living the life she loves. She said her cancer battle taught her a valuable life lesson, which she wants to share with her fellow Airmen: “You have the power within yourself to make your life better.”
ROUTINE EYE TEST REVEALS CANCER
Gerald Pearson, a 72-year-old retired consultant, was diagnosed with cancer in his left eye after a simple routine eye test, which spotted the cancerous growth and led to potentially life-saving surgery.
Gerald visited his ophthalmologist in July 2016 after suffering a flickering sensation in his left eye for two days. Tests revealed that his retina was detached due to a cancerous melanoma in his eye. His oncologist gave him the options to either have the eye removed or have markers placed on the tumor, which could be later treated with radiotherapy. Gerald chose to have a 2-hour operation to have markers on the tumor, despite the risk that the cancer may spread. Six weeks later, he then visited the Clatterbridge Cancer Hospital in Wirral, where he had eye proton therapy. “My situation was desperate,” he said. “The doctors told me that my tumor was 5.9mm in length, with 6mm being the maximum size that they would operate on. I was shocked, to say the least, that I was so close to having an inoperable and potentially fatal tumour on my eye.” Gerald now visits his eye clinic every two months for check-ups, but a scan in May this year confirmed that the treatments had been successful in reducing the size of the tumor. He no longer suffers from the flickering sensation. “I don’t want to even think how far the cancer could have spread if my doctor hadn’t spotted the initial problem with my eye,” he added. “Even though I still have to go back to the eye clinic for tests, it’s a very small price to pay for my overall health. “I would urge anyone to have regular eye tests because I dread to think what could have happened if I had let my symptoms continue.”