A Teen's Proton Therapy Journey
It’s the moment young Kelly Murphy turned the corner on his cancer treatment.
Back in the fall of 2016, at age 11, Kelly finished six rounds of radiation treatment called proton therapy.
The ringing of the chimes marked a significant milestone as Kelly was one of the first to complete treatment at the Proton Therapy Center at Cincinnati Children’s. His mom remembers taking that first leap of faith.
“Not to say you are not scared, they tell you your kid has cancer, yeah your heart drops in your stomach, what do you do? But they were on it, they told you this is what is, this is what we are going to do, these are the side effects,” said Lori Mathews, Kelly’s Mom.
Kelly’s medical journey began 6 months prior with the diagnosis of a brain tumor that was causing a buildup of fluid in his brain. He would undergo major surgery followed by six rounds of chemotherapy. Because of the location of the brain tumor, he became an ideal candidate for proton therapy as the next step.
“Which in this kind of tumor, it’s critical to use because proton beam therapy spares a lot of the structures around the tumor so it was imperative that we use that kind of technology for Kelly,” said Dr. Trent Hummel, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Cincinnati Children’s (and currently co-medical director of the Brain Tumor Center).
Kelly faced each radiation treatment with a thumbs up. A fitted mask was required and Kelly asked for it to be painted red and black in the form of the Marvel Comic superhero named Deadpool.
When it came time for the actual treatment, Kelly had to be flat on his back and very still while the proton therapy took place.
“When you see him in the bay and he has mask on and he’s laying very still and you see the large arm rotating around him, what that’s doing that’s actually shooting protons at the area of the tumor we want to treat,” said Dr. Hummel. “The radiation oncologists here are very good at nailing down or honing down exactly where you want to be to within a few millimeters. That’s why it’s important for him to be very still, if he’s moving around, that two millimeters can be off and that can affect his treatment program.”
Fast forward almost two years, Kelly unveils a new look but still has the same upbeat attitude for life.
“Considering I was one of the first to do this for Children’s, it felt pretty cool, like discovering new frontier like Lewis and Clark’s trip to the West,” said Kelly.
He returns to Cincinnati Children’s for follow up tests every three months to make sure his tumor hasn’t returned. His mom is grateful to his care team.
“Thank you, you saved my kid’s life and you did it with the upmost professionalism and you restored my faith in humanity,” said Lori.
Kelly hopes he can help pave the way for children facing a similar path.
“I hope they learn to love people, love parents and love life. Honestly, it kind of almost helps you. It helps you understand that life is precious,” said Kelly.
(Published June 2018)