Pediatric brain tumor parent: We're grateful for MD Anderson
When Ben Gadot’s brain tumor symptoms began in 2013, he was just 3 months old. The first sign was a visual change in his eyes.
“It was as if he was always looking down,” says Cecilia Gadot, Ben’s mom. “We could see mostly just the white part of his eyes.”
ER trip reveals childhood brain tumor
When Cecilia and her husband, Raphael, took Ben to their pediatrician, they were referred to an ophthalmologist. But Ben's health quickly started to decline. Cecilia remembers him being very fussy, crying and vomiting. They took him to a local emergency room.
A CT scan revealed a childhood brain tumor called pilomyxoid astrocytoma. Ben’s diagnosis was a Grade 2 optic pathway glioma.
Ben started chemotherapy to slow the growth of the tumor at a nearby hospital.
In 2016, he underwent tumor debulking surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. The tumor impaired Ben’s vision, and he started to experience precocious puberty at age 3.
In April 2021, Ben’s care team considered treating him with proton therapy but decided to keep him on chemotherapy to slow the tumor’s growth. In July 2022, Ben underwent a ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgery. By draining extra fluid in his brain, the shunt would help control pressure there.
Brain tumor growth leads to proton therapy treatments
But that September, an MRI showed a slight progression of the tumor. Ben’s care team decided it was time to start proton therapy at MD Anderson under the care of radiation oncologist David Grosshans, M.D., Ph.D. Because protons can be precisely controlled, pediatric proton beam radiation is ideal for tumors near growing healthy tissues.
On Oct. 17, 2022, Ben started 28 days of proton therapy. With his positive attitude and the help of the child life team, he underwent treatments and MRIs without sedation. “The bond he had with his care team brought him a lot of trust and comfort,” says Cecilia.
Ben enjoyed playtime with child life assistant Leon Benavides in the playroom at the Proton Therapy Center before and after treatment.
“MD Anderson’s staff is very supportive and caring, from the front desk to the nurses, doctors, radiation therapists and, most importantly, child life specialists,” says Cecilia. “Ben’s time in the playroom with Mr. Leon was his daily reward and incentive.”
Finding gratitude with a child in cancer treatment
Cecilia encourages other parents of pediatric cancer patients to find something to be grateful for each day. “The hardest part of treatment is waiting for it to start. Once it starts, it goes pretty smoothly and quickly,” she says. “So, take time to make each day a good day.”
Ben’s appointments were scheduled early in the morning so he could continue his daily routine. Most days he was able to go to school.
On Nov. 23, 2022, a few days before Thanksgiving, Ben rang the gong with his family and care team cheering him on. “We are so grateful for MD Anderson for not only being the best place to receive proton therapy but for making Ben feel comfortable and cared for along the way.”