Ryan Moore’s cancer encounter began with what seemed like a routine stomach bug. But when she woke up one morning with her eyes crossed, her mother knew something was terribly wrong.
The culprit: a tumor on the cerebellum—the lower, rear portion of the brain responsible for motor control and function and resulting from cells that malfunction before a child is born.
“They said she got an early diagnosis,” says Moore’s mom, Toni Thomas. “They were able to get all the tumor out without touching the pituitary gland. She’s almost as tall as my oldest—4 foot 9 and still growing.”
In spite of the positive prognosis, the road to recovery hasn’t been an easy one for Moore.
After surgery, the recommended course of treatment was radiation, specifically proton therapy, and chemotherapy. Although her doctors recommended proton therapy centers in Houston and Jacksonville, Thomas did some research of her own and discovered Provision Center for Proton Therapy, which was much closer to the family’s home in Birmingham, Ala.
Thomas said she’d been disappointed by MD Andersen Cancer Center’s slow response to her inquiries and their impersonal demeanor.
“Even in calling them and trying to get our insurance stuff together, they were just cold,” Thomas said.
“When I called Provision, they said, ‘Let me see who can do this.’ Everybody made themselves very available.”
Moore required chemotherapy in conjunction with her proton therapy treatments, and Thomas said the Provision doctors and oncologists at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital worked closely with Moore’s doctors at home to set up her treatment process.
“It’s just amazing how her team here at Children’s Birmingham worked with Provision’s team, which worked with the children’s hospital in Knoxville,” Thomas said. “It just clicked into place and we were rolling.”
Provision’s hospitality team arranged for mother and daughter to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. And, when Ryan was feeling good enough to get out, the two went to see a car show and got to see a University of Tennessee basketball game from the sky box.
Early in Moore’s treatment she encountered a side effect in which the oxygen in the room smelled like “burnt pennies and burnt hair,” Thomas said. Her medical team went to work on a solution, eventually finding a eucalyptus air freshener that helped block much of the odor, she said. The doctors were easy to work with and made the treatment process relaxed and “not scary,” Thomas said. There were moustache Mondays and crazy sock days.
“Ryan is not usually a person who clings to people, but when it was time to go for her to give hugs like that was major, very major,” Thomas said.
There have been tough times through the past months since Moore’s diagnosis, her mom said, and it’s not over yet. With 42 weeks of total treatment, she’ll be receiving chemotherapy into the spring of 2016. The side effects of treatment have had her in and out of the hospital. With two teenage and one five-year-old sibling at home, it’s been challenging to juggle treatments and the demands of regular life, Thomas said.
“We’ve had a couple of moments, but she managed to get through those moments and take courage,” Thomas said. “She doesn’t always like it, but she’s hanging in there.”
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