Because Riley is a part of IU Health, it was easy for us to get access to the Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington during his cancer treatment.
The staff at the center treated all of us with the same kind of care that we received at Riley Hospital.
PRECISION: A PRICELESS WEAPON
Proton therapy is a valuable weapon against one of the most sinister aspects of cancer: the resilience of a tumor. In the spring of 2011, Riley neurosurgeon Dr. Joel Boaz removed an aggressive brain tumor known as ependymoma from Ben’s cerebellum and brain stem.
But the surgery could only remove the tumor cells visible to the naked eye.
Microscopic cancer cells infected the tumor bed. If left untreated, Ben’s cancer would have grown right back.
Fifteen or 20 years ago, the only post-operative treatment available for pediatric ependymoma patients went by the ghoulish name of “whole brain radiation.” This involved shooting radiation into a child’s brain, a procedure which eradicated healthy cells as well as sick ones, leaving the patient with severe cognitive defects.
A lot of parents simply opted out of this procedure and hoped that their child would fall into the statistically small number of patients who were cured by surgery alone.
Fortunately, Ben had the option of proton therapy. This type of therapy preserved the rest of Ben’s developing brain since radiation would not be driven through all of it, just the tumor bed.
Ben’s physician at the IU Proton Therapy Center was Dr. Jeffrey Buschbaum.
He held an advanced physics degree, a medical degree and Ben’s life in his hands.
The proton machine and represents one of the great wonders of physics and Dr. Buschbaum had to set it up with a NASA-like level of precision. I don’t understand how he did it any more than I can comprehend the level of skill in Dr. Boaz’s fingers, but I know it helped to save my son.
Ben has been in remission long enough now that I can occasionally step back and marvel at the entire process that saved him. I think, “all of that to treat a tumor the size of a smashed apple.”
Cancer cells are resilient, but Riley and the IU Health network proved to be stronger. Watch the video and you can see how their resilience overcame that of the of cancer cells.