Oklahoma City is becoming a growing destination for families seeking a different type of cancer radiation treatment.
Patients come from as far away as Malaysia and the United Kingdom for treatment at Procure Proton Therapy Center. It is one of only about a dozen places in the United States offering the specialized radiation.
“I like football, or soccer,” Liam Volrath said.
The British 10-year-old is adjusting to the U.S. His therapy dog comforts him through all the changes life has brought the last two months.
“I don't think anyone ever thinks that their child will get cancer,” said Sandra Vollrath, Liam's mother.
Liam was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a medulloblastoma in October and after an 11-hour surgery, he needed to start radiation almost immediately. His parents wanted a specialized form of radiation called proton beam therapy, but the United Kingdom does not have any proton therapy centers.
The Vollraths brought Liam to Procure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City.
“We never thought that we would have to go thousands and thousands of miles for cancer treatment for our 10 year old,” said Vollrath.
Proton beam therapy is a specialized form of radiation that pinpoints the treatment areas using molds customized for each patient's tumor.
“If one thinks of standard x-ray radiation, like a shotgun that hits everything in the area, proton radiation is like a target rifle,” explained Dr. Andrew Chang, Radiation Oncologist at ProCure. “It allows us to pinpoint where we are giving the radiation.”
The good tissue is spared, reducing the side effects. Typically, treatments are daily, 30-minute sessions for six to eight weeks. Liam requires radiation on his whole brain and spine.
“You appreciate the little things in life a lot more. You appreciate even the moments when you get really annoyed with them, when they're screaming and shouting, fighting with their siblings,” said Vollrath.
Now, the family is hoping for a Christmas miracle.
“He should finish on Christmas Eve and ring the bell just before Christmas Day, which would be amazing,” Vollrath told News 9.
Procure has a formal partnership with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. The UK sends about 120 families a year to the center for treatment.