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Tony Quinn Has Learned to Walk it Off

Family Matters - Fall 2010

The pictures prove it. At age 4 and 5 during treatment for osteosarcoma and after having his left leg amputated just below his knee, young Tony Quinn was walking, running, playing baseball – and even skiing.

After roughhousing with his older brother caused tenderness and swelling in his leg, Tony was initially seen by his pediatrician in 1990 at age 3. Though tests were inconclusive, the doctor told Mark and Debbie Quinn that there was only a 3% chance of the problem being serious. But finally, Tony was sent to 
MD Anderson for a diagnosis. After determining that he had a kind of cancer known as osteosarcoma, his treatment was handled by Norman Jaffe, M.D.

“Dr. Jaffe told us up front that the main objective was to save Tony’s life,” says Mark Quinn, Tony’s dad. “He explained that there was a risk of the cancer spreading to his lungs and that the protocol called for amputation.”

Tony’s treatment began with chemotherapy. Though the goal was seven rounds of the drugs, after only five, his kidneys showed signs of damage. The amputation was promptly scheduled, and Tony, now age 4, began a monthly regimen of visits to MD Anderson from his hometown of Mauriceville, Texas for chemotherapy.

Although the chemo resulted in a hearing loss in both ears, Tony was fitted for hearing aids before he entered first grade and never missed a beat. Encouraged by his family and coached by his father, Tony went on to play basketball and football and to graduate from high school in 2005. He attended Lamar University in Beaumont for a year and then went on to Criswell College in Dallas for two years.

Today, guided by vocational counselor Sandra Medina in the Children’s Cancer Hospital, Tony is still pursuing his education at Lamar College-Orange and is interested in receiving a degree in kinesiology. He also works for LeTourneau Prosthetics in Beaumont as a technician with the added benefit of test-driving the new prosthetic legs developed by the company.

As a young MD Anderson patient, Tony enjoyed many of the activities offered pediatric patients. He attended Camp Star Trails several times, went on the rehabilitation ski trip led by Jaffe and was part of a group of patients who went to the Houston Rodeo, Astros baseball games and other activities. When it came time for Tony to have his Make-A-Wish, he had the choice of a go-cart or a family trip to DisneyWorld. Tony says that his parents picked the trip.

Tony Quinn is blessed with an outstanding support system. His father’s job allows him to join Tony in his continuing appointments at MD Anderson for treatment of a long-term side effect heart condition. His mother, Debbie, was inspired by her experience of caring for Tony and became an oncology nurse in 1999. And, big brother Jared is still there for Tony even though he attends graduate school in Washington, D.C. Tony also has a strong faith and plays guitar in the Praise Band at his church.

“I had to adjust,” Tony says. “Dr. Jaffe insisted that I wouldn’t need a wheelchair and I was encouraged by other patients. Watching them and seeing that they could manage without one, my parents agreed that this was the way to go.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center