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May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month

Henry-Cameron Allen 3 May, 2023

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of this devastating disease and to support those who are affected by it. To date, there is no cure.

The story of my son Cameron's journey with brain cancer was pivotal to me on so many levels, and I share in support of others who are also grieving their beloved children, or who may currently be on a pediatric brain cancer journey of their own.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the leading causes of death in children in the USA (as of 2020) are:

  • Firearms

  • Accidents

  • Malignant neoplasm (cancer)

My Cameron was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma in 2006 when he was just 11 years old. This kind of tumor is more typically found in men over the age of 55, and is still considered rare in children, though numbers have been growing rapidly.

Anaplastic astrocytomas are a type of brain tumor that starts in the star-shaped cells that support the brain. They are considered to be more aggressive than other types of astrocytomas, and they spread very quickly.

The symptoms of anaplastic astrocytoma can vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Some common symptoms include:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Vision problems

  • Personality changes

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech

  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

  • Problems with balance

  • Difficulty walking

  • Memory problems

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it is important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for anaplastic astrocytoma. The treatment plan will vary depending on the size, location, and grade of the tumor. Some common treatments include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor

  • Chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells

  • Radiation therapy to destroy the cancer cells

The goal of treatment is to cure the cancer or to control it so that it does not grow or spread. The outlook for children with anaplastic astrocytoma varies depending on the size, location, and grade of the tumor. Some children survive the cancer, while others will have a recurrence, as Cameron did. It did not recur as a solid tumor but came back as a kind of ooze that permeated his brain. It was a slow and relatively gentle process.

Cameron underwent two surgeries to remove the solid tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The treatment was tough, but Cameron was a brave and resilient young man. He never gave up hope, and he always kept a smile on his face. He worked so hard to come back to health.

Unfortunately, the cancer returned months after the initial treatments. He underwent a second round of chemotherapy (33 pills per day) and more radiation, but it was not enough. He passed away peacefully at home at the age of 13.

Cameron was a kind, loving, and compassionate young man, and he was my only child. He had a bright future ahead of him, and it was taken away too soon. However, his influence is still felt all over the world, and we celebrate Cameron's Feast in honor of his birthday every 16th of April. He continues to inspire people every day, even many who never got to meet him.

I miss my beloved son every day, as do his family and friends. I hope that by raising awareness of this devastating disease, we can help to find a cure, save other children's lives, and support parents who are going through this unconscionable journey.

How to Help:

If you would like to help raise awareness of brain cancer, there are many things you can do. You can:

  • Wear a gray ribbon, the official symbol of brain tumor awareness.

  • Make a donation to a brain tumor research organization.

  • Contact your elected officials and urge them to support funding for brain tumor research.

  • Start a brain tumor support group in your community.

  • Share your story with others to raise awareness of the disease.

If your child is diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you and your child through this difficult time. You can find support groups, online forums, and other resources at the following websites:

Thank you for your support of The Lost Travelers Club. Every little bit helps.

Getting there together...

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