Leisl Stone made the mistake of asking the surgeon
what her toddler son, Jayden's, chances of survival were following
the removal of brain tumor earlier this year.
"Do you really want to know?" the surgeon replied. Jayden,
at 18 months, was beginning a battle against a form of pediatric
cancer so aggressive its survival rate is less than 10 percent.
Leisl and her husband, Danny, of Perth, Australia, felt sick
themselves as they watched the chemo drugs bombard their third
child's tiny body following the surgery. He contracted meningitis
and neared death, but still the chemo had to continue, lest an
errant cell left after the surgery push the cancer back into the
Then it was time for radiation. Leisl wanted to know the
side effects of radiation coursing through his developing brain.
"He'll need an aide at school. He's not likely to graduate high
school. He won't be able to process math," Leisl remembers the
radiologist in Australia telling her. He'd likely need hearing
aids. His vision could be damaged.
But the worst news from the radiologist was yet to come.
"She said, in not so many words, that none of that's your concern
because he won't live long enough to see the side effects," Leisl
Danny and Leisl were horrified.
After scouring the Internet, Leisl came to the conclusion
that Jayden needed proton therapy. Proton therapy is a form of
radiation that targets just the specific area where the cancer is,
while minimizing the damage to the surrounding tissues. For someone
like Jayden, whose tumor was buried deep within his brain, protons
offered the chance for the radiation to get to the remaining cancer
cells while not damaging the surrounding brain like conventional
Unfortunately, proton therapy isn't available in
Australia, so the search led the family to the CDH Proton Center in
Warrenville, one of only 10 such centers in the United States.
Recently, as Jayden underwent a daily round of proton therapy,
Chicago Parent documented their child's fight for life.
Danny and Leisl want others to bear witness to the
indomitable spirit of the spunky toddler from Australia.
"I can't let myself fall down," says Danny, "when he
continues to stand up. He leads the way."
Below we've included a slideshow featuring a timeline of one
of Jayden's hospital visits. To view the captions that go with each
photo, click 'show info'.
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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