An 8-year-old boy at St. Jude Children’s Hospital has reason to celebrate this holiday season: He’s officially cured of stage 4 brain cancer.
Cameron Scott had a medulloblastoma, a severe type of brain cancer that had grown from his brain to his spinal cord. Now, his family and caretakers are calling him a hero.
Cameron was diagnosed two years ago.
But learning that he had brain cancer was just the beginning. He didn’t just have cancer — he actually had four distinct diseases that doctors were only just beginning to understand.
He underwent surgery to attempt to remove his tumor before being transferred to St. Jude. There, he went through six months of chemo and radiation. But the hospital also had the chance to try some revolutionary new treatments focused on gene sequencing to target Cameron’s condition more effectively.
Now, Cameron says he feels stronger than ever.
“I feel amazing now,” the 8-year-old said. “I feel like I’ve been through everything.”
The start of Cameron’s journey through cancer was simple enough: At the age of 6, he fell down a flight of stairs. The fall left him in a lot of pain, so his doctors ordered an MRI, thinking something was off. What they didn’t expect was to find stage 4 brain cancer already spreading down his spine.
A medulloblastoma is also known as a cerebellar primitive neuroectodermal tumor.
Although it’s the most common type of brain tumor found in children, it’s still extremely rare. In the United States, only 250 to 500 children are diagnosed with this type of brain tumor on an annual basis.
The most common symptoms are headaches, nausea, and difficulty controlling one’s handwriting or becoming unusually clumsy. If the tumors have spread to the spinal cord, as Cameron’s did, it’s also common to experience neck or back pain. Patients can also have a hard time walking or controlling their bladder.
The reason medulloblastoma spreads so easily down the spine is because it begins at the base of the brain, in the region called the posterior fossa.
The survival rates of the disease vary depending on how much the cancer has spread.
For children like Cameron whose cancer has spread from the brain to the spine, the survival rate is roughly 60 percent.
Cameron is the youngest of six children. For his parents, Wendell and Tamika Scott, watching their son go through treatment was a terrifying prospect. Wendell said his first instinct was that, as Cameron’s father, he had to be a rock.
“I’m Dad, and I have to be strong for everybody,” Wendell said. “I just felt we’re gonna fight.”
Cameron’s initial surgery to remove his brain tumors lasted four hours.
The little boy only weighed 53 pounds.
But St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital stepped in to pay for Cameron’s treatment and to offer a pioneering approach that would closely target cancer cells. To the joy of the Scott family, the treatment was successful. Now, Cameron is cancer-free. And the 8-year-old is still excited about his life.
St. Jude is a pioneer in researching how to treat rare diseases found in children, especially many types of cancer.
“The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment,” its mission statement reads. “Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.”
The hospital consistently tries to find ways to pay for treatments through donations and sets families up for temporary living spaces, so they can be close to their children during their treatment. It also prioritizes finding new treatments, and many patients take part in research so it can better serve others with the same conditions in the future.
St. Jude treats about 7,500 children every year. Most of its research is concentrated on childhood cancers, immune diseases, genetic disorders, and sickle cell disease.
Danny Thomas founded the Memphis, Tennessee, hospital in 1962. Although the hospital also operates off federal grants and investments, its main source of operating income comes from donations. This makes it possible for families like the Scotts to receive the best treatment for their children at little or no cost.
So, how did Cameron and his family celebrate his newfound health?
By taking a trip to Legoland, where the boy got to dress up as Batman and have some fun in mock combat.
Cameron loves superheroes, but Batman is his top choice. And he has a very specific reason why Bruce Wayne is his favorite.
“His philosophy is, well, all of the other superheroes have superpowers,” Wendell said. “Batman uses his brain.”
Now, Cameron’s brain is healthy, too. And he’s ready to take on the world.
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