Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping families overcome the most difficult obstacles.
LITTLE GIRL HELPING FUND HER CANCER TREATMENT
8-year-old Asia Jackson was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, this past August. She’s helping her family pay for proton radiation therapy, which isn’t offered in Virginia, by making and selling beaded bracelets.
Asia’s form of cancer is usually only found in adults and spreads haphazardly through the body. “A regular tumor is in the form of a grapefruit or has a shape. This doesn’t. It’s just kind of all over the place,” Asia’s mother said. In three months, Asia has endured four long surgeries. Her neck, spine and arm are now severely weakened. She wears a “halo” brace screwed into her skull, to support her head. However, somehow, she doesn’t seem too bothered. “She actually is what keeps us going, her attitude,” her mom added. In fact, after her most recent surgery on Halloween, there was just one question Asia had for the doctor: “Can I go trick-or-treating?”. Asia is steadfast on recovering. However, she misses her friends, and most of all, dancing with her team. “I miss dancing. It’s the most fun thing in the world,” she exclaimed. Asia hopes to get back to performing after the treatment. Proton radiation will cost tens of thousands of dollars, and might not be covered by insurance since it’s out of state. While Asia’s family and friends continue to fundraise online and through bake sales, she’s determined to string as many bracelets as possible. “Those bracelets are just so we can raise money so we can go to Florida,” Asia said, as she sat with her doll at the kitchen table.
JEAN’S STORY OF BREAST CANCER
After 25 years of faithfully submitting to her annual mammogram, Jean Aikens had never gotten the dreaded call, although her sister’s breast cancer diagnosis 20 years before had definitely put the possibility on her radar.
But between one breast cancer screening and the next, a 3 cm tumor had formed, and all of a sudden Jean found herself facing a biopsy, then surgery and radiation treatment. The 79-year-old survivor was referred to Provision Center for Proton Therapy in lieu of conventional radiation by her surgeon. As an asthma sufferer, she says, the treatment would help spare her lungs from damage caused by conventional radiation, which is much less precise than proton therapy. Jean and her husband Thomas left their home in Tennessee, and rented a small house in Knoxville, where she received 4 weeks of proton therapy treatment. Her daughter joined them for much of that time, and the couple’s two grandsons spent fall break seeking the sights of Knoxville. The Aikens made Knoxville a home away from home during their month-long stay. They got acquainted with a neighbor, who brought food over, took them on a tour of downtown and gave Thomas the job of trimming his hedge when he complained of missing the daily work on his small farm back home : “I can’t stand sitting around,” he says.
They also managed to have some fun along the way. The two women drug Thomas to the outlet malls, and during a trip to the Knoxville Zoo, Jean rode camel with her grandson.
“The only thing,” she says, “it was too short of a ride.”
SEVEN DAYS TO SAVE A LIFE
2-year-old Alexander Vinson from the UK needs proton therapy to save him from a fast-growing cancer in his brain and spinal chord. As it is not covered by the NHS, his parents have just one week to raise £150,000 and send their son abroad for treatment.
Earlier this year, Alexander was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called atypical teratoid/rhabdoid (AT/RT). He has already undergone two 8-hour operations and 3 rounds of chemotherapy, but it is failing to stop the tumor. Doctors said Alexander could benefit from proton therapy, and his parents are aiming to get him on the next available trip to Oklahoma to get the treatment, as his condition is deteriorating rapidly. “The oncologist made an application to the NHS but it wasn’t on the list. They said the treatment was not suitable for this type of tumor”, his mom said. Earlier this month, Alexander’s parents thus started raising the required £150,000 themselves, and they now have just eight days to make the arrangements and book the flights for the trip. They have set up a fundraising page and have already had £27,000 pledged in donations. They hope to raise the money by November 21 in order to be able to book the first appropriate flight to America on November 23. The treatment itself costs about £80,000, but money is also needed for accommodation, flights and any medical help he will need after the procedure. The co-founder of Kids ‘n’ Cancer charity, which has donated £10,000 to the appeal, said Alexander could die without the radiation therapy.