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The best gift of all

By The Emporia Gazette August 14, 2010
By Brandy Nance

Eighth-grader Adrian Lewis and his family received a gift early this week — word that Adrian was cancer-free after undergoing months of treatment for a nongerminoma germ cell tumor.

Instead of spending time with his friends this summer, Adrian was completing his treatment — proton radiation — in Houston. He and his mother, Sandy Solano, and his 14-year-old sister, Samantha, spent the summer in Houston, and returned around the end of July.

Adrian was diagnosed with cancer at the end of January of this year.

"He had a couple of headaches," Solano said. "The doctor did a CAT scan, which was a godsend."

The CAT scan showed that Adrian had a mass. He was immediately sent to the emergency room at Children's Mercy in Kansas City, Mo.

"He was very sick by the time we got there," Solano said. "They did an MRI right away."

Following the MRI, the family got the news — Adrian had a 2-centimeter tumor in the center of his brain that was inoperable. Adrian was given steroids right away to relieve the pressure on his brain, and he was started on chemotherapy on the last day in January.

He endured chemotherapy treatments in January, February, March, April and May — a total of six rounds of chemotherapy, Solano said. Adrian would spent a week in the hospital at a time during the treatments.

"He went through treatments pretty well," she said. "The tumor dissolved very quickly. By the end of chemo he was in remission."

But, news of Adrian's remission wasn't the end of the treatments. Adrian still had to undergo radiation treatment. It was decided that Adrian would undergo proton radiation treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. According to MD Anderson's website, proton radiation is an advanced type of radiation treatment.

"(Proton radiation) uses a beam of protons to irradiate — or deliver radiation — directly to the tumor, destroying cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue and other critical areas or vital organs," the website stated. "With conventional radiation therapy, X-ray beams pass through both healthy and cancerous tissues, destroying everything in the path of the X-ray beam. Both the cancerous tissues and the surrounding healthy tissue are damaged."

Solano said there are only seven places in the United States that have a proton radiation center. She had done the research and asked about the treatment for her son. It was determined that he would benefit from the treatment. After going to Houston to get exams, Adrian was approved through Solano's insurance for the treatment. Adrian officially began the radiation treatment on July 16.

Houston is where the family would spend two months. While in Houston, the family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House — an experience the family won't soon forget.

"There were 50 rooms for 50 different families," Solano said. "Every night for dinner a different organization in the community would bring in dinner."

While there, Adrian made some great friends.

"The people you meet are a whole other book," Solano said.

"You have lots of books," Adrian said to his mother, following her comment.

The main hospital was another experience the family won't soon forget.

"The main hospital was like a war-zone," Solano said, adding that ambulance and helicopter traffic were constants. "It was very, very traumatic."

Adrian's treatments weren't easy. Solano's husband dropped the family off in Houston so they didn't have a car and took taxis most everywhere they went. Adrian's appointments were at 9 or 11 at night because of high volume of patients. Adrian had a mask fashioned for him that he wore during treatments. He had to lay on the table for an hour during each treatment.

"He did well," Solano said.

Following his return home, Adrian got a wish through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He chose a shopping spree in Kansas City. He was given three hours to spend a sum of money. The family stayed in at the Sheraton Hotel in Overland Park where they were given the royal treatment — a suite and complete room service. The next day, the whirlwind shopping spree ensued. The first stop was Hobby Haven, where Adrian picked out a remote control car. Following that was Best Buy — Adrian's favorite stop, he said — where he picked up a 46-inch television for his bedroom, something he admits will be great for gaming. He also picked up some accessories for his Playstation 3 game system.

The final stop was Dillards, where it had been pre-arranged for him to come in and shop. Dillards gave him 50 percent off his purchases, doubling the amount of clothing he could get.

But early this week, the family got the best gift of all — there is no trace of cancer in Adrian's body.

"He is in total remission," Solano said.

During the process, she said, she felt emotions she never knew she had.

"You have the lowest of lows and the highest of highs," she said. "There's stuff inside you that you had no idea. There are just as many great times as there are sad ones. Everything went very smooth as far as treatments. It all went as it was supposed to."

Solano also thanked her daughter.

"She spent her whole summer at the Ronald McDonald House," Solano said of her daughter. "Samantha had to deal with a lot."

The hero is Adrian, Solano said in an earlier e-mail.

"Adrian is my true hero," she said. "He has undergone more than any child should have to but he's done it with such strength and courage."


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