Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping save the lives of cancer patients of all ages and from all over the world.
LIFE-SAVING PT IN THE USA FOR 3-YEAR-OLD
Taya Phillips, a 3-year-old girl from the UK fighting cancer for the second time, has been offered life-saving treatment in America. She was diagnosed with cancer in June after previously fighting the disease when she was only 4-months-old.
Taya has rhabdomyosarcoma, which is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children, even if only 60 children are diagnosed each year in the UK. This month, Taya’s mom Laura was told the heartbreaking news that surgery was not an option because the area was too big to treat. Fortunately, 2 days later, Taya was offered life-saving treatment in Oklahoma. The NHS is funding her treatment, as patients who require proton therapy for more specific tumors have been able to access treatment abroad since April 2008. Laura is a single mom, as Taya’s dad Terry died in November 2012 from oesophageal cancer. She will need to go to America for 10 weeks with Taya, which means she will be away from her other 3 daughters, Katy, 12, Lacey, 8, Layla-Terri, 4, over Christmas. That is why her family and friends have set up a fund to raise money for the 3 children to be supported at home and to fly to America at Christmas with one of their grandparents. Writing on Facebook, her mom said: “I’ve pinched myself a million times to check I’m not dreaming. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for this opportunity. Thanks to the amazing people who made this possible. You have given my family so much more than therapy; you have given us a future as a family.”
COMMUNITY RAISING FUNDS FOR TODDLER WITH BRAIN TUMOR
The family of Freddie Hunt, a 2-year-old from the UK who suffers from an incurable brain tumor, need to raise £100,000 for specialist proton therapy treatment in Jacksonville, Florida. Their community has surrounded them with their support.
“Once he started to walk I noticed that increasingly he was having episodes of unawareness, in which he appeared distressed,” his mom Abby said. “These were increasing rapidly and although they only lasted 15 seconds, he would have one every 10 minutes. So at the next appointment we took him in to a paediatrician and he had 3 of these episodes in front of him.” When an MRI scan showed a large mass in on Freddy’s pituitary gland, his parents felt powerless, as the doctors told them the tumor was inoperable, and radiation and/or chemo were not exempt from side effects. Until they discovered proton therapy: “Time is something we feel we don’t have and his quality of life is poor. So proton beam therapy for rare brain tumors in Jacksonville, Florida, seems to be the place everyone has successfully taken their children, with a great success rate.” However, the family has to raise £100,000 to pay for Freddie’s treatment. Last Thursday, his mom went on the Yateley Community Facebook site to ask people to look for a shooting star and make a wish for Freddie. “I never imagined what that simple message would start. Within an hour I had over 300 comments,” she said. “Everyone has been so kind and genuine. Someone set up a crowd funding page and from there it’s gone crazy.” Hundreds of people have so far chipped in to raise more than £5,000. “Whatever the outcome of this terrible situation, good or bad, myself and my family will never forget the amazing support and the chance they are giving us to get treatment for our Freddie, whom we love dearly.”
VIRGINIA’S FIGHT AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Over the past 20 months, Virginia Palmer, a 51-year-old mother of two, has learned just how strong she was, after being diagnosed in April 2015 with stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.
“I have fiber cystic breasts, and at the time I had a lump in both my left and right breast. The one on my left went away, but the one on my right stayed,” Virginia said. After a mammogram, sonogram and biopsy confirmed the worst, she began chemotherapy that May. “I underwent 16 rounds of chemo, lost all of my hair and all of my strength. My family and friends would try to encourage me by telling me sickly is the new sexy.” She also underwent a lumpectomy in October, and started proton therapy treatment at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute shortly after. Throughout her treatment, Virginia continued to work part time as a patient relations representative at UF Health North. “This experience makes me better at my job because I know how difficult it can be for our patients,” she said. “I want them to know if they get this diagnosis, it’s time to fight for your life. I also want people to know how important it is to get a mammogram.” Doctors declared Virginia cancer-free after her lumpectomy, but it wasn’t until her 6-month mammogram appointment that she believed them. “You have faith, but you just don’t know,” she said. “When you see there is nothing there with your own eyes, then you can finally breathe.” Virginia’s thick hair is slowly growing back, and her scars are starting to fade. She is thankful and lives each day with deep gratitude that only comes from being pushed to the edge and not giving up.