“I looked inside his mouth and noticed a large growth”
After several nights of waking up crying, the parents of two-year-old, Sawyer Hack, realized something was wrong. Sawyer had swelling and pain on the left side of his face.
“He was waking up in the middle of the night crying,“ Sawyer’s mom recalls. “One morning I saw what looked like an abscessed tooth. I thought it was his 2-year molars coming in.”
After visits to his pediatric dentist, hospital and a biopsy in November 2016, doctors discovered rhabdomyosarcoma on Sawyer’s left jawbone. Rhabdomyosarcoma typically develops in the skeletal muscles, which are used by the body to control body movements.
“It was a clear that proton therapy was the best decision”
With the tumor being inoperable and quickly growing, doctors recommended chemotherapy followed by radiation treatment. Instead of conventional radiation, doctors recommended proton therapy at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center to treat Sawyer’s tumor.
Proton therapy can precisely target the tumor near or within sensitive organs while limiting radiation exposure to healthy tissues, which is vital in children whose bodies are still growing and developing.
“Proton therapy was able to target the tumor in Sawyer’s jaw and save sensitive tissue such as his eyes and ears” Sawyer’s dad said. “It was a clear that proton therapy was the best decision.”
Sawyer began chemotherapy on Thanksgiving Day. Luckily, Sawyer’s home in the Houston suburbs was just a one-hour commute to the medical center, making it easier to travel to the Proton Therapy Center for daily treatment. Sawyer received a total of 28 days of proton therapy treatment in the spring of 2017. He also completed chemotherapy treatment in August of 2017.
Dedicated pediatric team
In addition to providing personalized and innovative treatment, the Proton Therapy Center provides a dedicated pediatric team consisting of doctors, nurses, radiation therapists, dietitian, child life specialist and other cancer experts.
“The staff at the Proton Therapy Center was remarkable. We still stop in to say hi to Leo and Yvette,” Mom happily shared. “The child life specialist helped Sawyer keep his mind off of treatment and Leo’s painting made the experience positive.”
Today, Sawyer is attending preschool and is a proud big brother to his sister, Heidi. “He loves his little sister, Lego sets, and superheroes. Specifically Batman,” Sawyer’s parents said.
As a reminder that he can accomplish anything, Sawyer’s mom created a book for him which documented his journey with cancer. "Now, it's a time capsule of everything he accomplished and endured during his 43 weeks of treatment," Mom shared. "If you can beat cancer, you can do anything. I never want him to forget he beat cancer when he was just three years old."
If you can beat cancer, you can do anything. I never want him to forget he beat cancer when he was just three years old.