Experts at our Proton Therapy Center team up to help kids like Kelly beat the rarest forms of cancer

Lori understands more than most that a mother’s instinct can be a powerful force.

Her 14-year-old son, Kelly, had always been resilient, so when he started complaining of a severe headache and nausea one spring evening, she kept a close eye on him.

“I gave him some ibuprofen and tucked him into bed,” she says, recalling her concern that it was more than just a bug. “When he started vomiting, I took him to the ER — just as a precaution.” 

Doctors at a neighboring hospital treated his symptoms, and Kelly felt a little better—at first. His headaches came and went, so Lori scheduled a follow-up with their family physician. 

It was during that short drive to the doctor that a new and frightening symptom reared its head—Kelly started to lose his vision. 

“I needed to stay calm for my son,” Lori explains. “I got him to the doctor, and they sent us directly to Cincinnati Children’s for testing.”

Our doctors recognized the symptoms right away. After a simple test, Kelly learned that he had a brain tumor, and it had been growing since birth.  

Fortunately, Lori and Kelly were in the right place at the right time. When they moved to Cincinnati two years earlier, they had no idea they’d need the expertise of the best pediatric cancer program in the country.

“It happened so fast,” Lori remembers. “Within a half hour of our arrival, he had been diagnosed and rushed off to surgery to drain the fluid building up on his brain which was causing his symptoms.”

They didn’t have a lot of family nearby, but thanks to our outstanding care team, Lori and Kelly had the support they needed.

“We weren’t alone, and that’s because of Cincinnati Children’s,” Lori explains. “The doctors were right there with a plan. The way the nurses acted, the kind gestures of the custodial staff—they all gave us strength.” 

A Safer Path to Healing 

Due to the location of the tumor, it couldn't be removed—but Kelly was a candidate for an emerging form of radiation treatment known as proton therapy. 

As luck would have it, the doors of our new Proton Therapy Center were just about to open at our Liberty Campus. Kelly was scheduled to be one of the first patients to receive this innovative therapy.

Lori was grateful that her son would receive best-in-class treatment so close to home. And thanks to our family-centered care, she knew she could trust our experts to walk right alongside her and Kelly on this journey. 

“Everyone I met was there for me and my kid,” Lori recalls. “No one was too busy to answer our questions or comfort us.”

Superhero in Cancer Treatment  

In the battle against some of the rarest and most challenging cancer cases, proton therapy is the safest, most precise form of radiation treatment available. 

Our experts are able to pinpoint this specialized pencil beam radiation technology to treat the tumor in its exact location, eradicating cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues. 

As a result, patients experience fewer complications than with traditional radiation therapy. This is especially important for children, whose bodies are still growing and developing.

Trent Hummel, MD, has dedicated his career to bringing the best possible treatments to kids like Kelly.  

“If we didn’t have proton therapy, we’d be testing Kelly now for side effects from the radiation,” Dr. Hummel explains. “But we know it didn’t affect his lungs, it didn’t affect his heart. Now, we don’t have to worry about some of the long-term damage that we would have with traditional radiation.” 

However, our Proton Therapy Center is more than just a treatment center. It also houses the world’s only dedicated research space for this new technology—making Cincinnati Children’s a national hub for cancer research. 

“We’re really excited to use proton research to help bring even better treatments to kids and adults,” says Dr. Hummel. 

New Partners Inspire New Hope

Our doctors and researchers aren’t the only ones moving the needle in developing new treatments. Donors have been instrumental in advancing discoveries.

Kerry Byrne, president of Total Quality Logistics (TQL), the largest private company in Greater Cincinnati, hopes to see the continued expansion of new and innovative cancer treatments. And, through the TQL Foundation, the company is investing in our work to help us get there faster.

“Our philanthropic philosophy is to support the causes our employees care about,” says Corey Drushal, Corporate Giving Manager for TQL. “Many of our employees rely on Cincinnati Children’s, and we’re committed to ensuring our families and community have the best care available.”

The foundation’s gift will benefit cancer research at the Proton Therapy Center and help fuel a new wave of discovery.

“We’re honored to help Cincinnati Children’s provide the most advanced cancer therapy,” says Kerry, who shares that the gift was inspired by the many employees in the TQL family affected by cancer and touched by the work of Cincinnati Children’s.

TQL hopes to inspire other businesses to make contributions to advance this crucial work.

Helping Children Thrive 

The combination of our world-class expertise, groundbreaking research and cutting-edge technology helped Kelly become cancer free, and it will continue to help countless others

“Considering I was one of the first to do this, it felt pretty cool, like discovering a new frontier,” Kelly says.

His next frontier? Loving life as a teenager and focusing on high school.

After Kelly graduates, the family has plans to travel west, exploring the country in their camper.

Lori knows it’s a dream that wasn’t possible without the help of Cincinnati Children’s. “They saved my son’s life, and they did it with the utmost professionalism—they restored my faith in humanity.”

To support cancer research and care at Cincinnati Children’s, contact Kasey Fischesser at 513-636-4221, or kasey.fischesser@cchmc.org.

Kelly received an innovative new treatment known as proton therapy—a safer alternative to traditional radiation. Now cancer free, his family is grateful for the expert care he received at Cincinnati Children’s.  

A gift from the TQL Foundation is helping advance cancer research and therapies, helping families like Kelly's get the most innovative treatments.