At just 5 years old, Aaron Gaines of Edmond already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I am the boy who is going to be a doctor," Aaron said repeatedly when we met him at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City.
His parents have no doubt he will do it. You see, Aaron is gifted, already reading at the 6th grade level, doing 1st grade math, playing piano and conducting science experiments with his dad. He even has the unexpected knowledge that some doctors don't: what it's like to be on the other side.
"As he's gone through this process, it's only strengthened his desire to help people," said Aaron's mother.
That process is being a patient. It was in January of this year that his parents realized something was terribly wrong. Aaron wasn't eating. Then, when he kept falling asleep at the dinner table complained of headaches and was unable to walk, his parents took him to the emergency department at OU Medical Center.
"We were devastated," she said. "We really had a hard time; he had to stay in the hospital for two weeks."
Where doctors discovered he had a benign brain tumor. He had the tumor for years, in fact, but cysts had formed on top of the tumor, putting pressure inside his brain. The pressure was so great; it hurt Aaron when he ate. So he underwent a surgery to remove the cysts and then was sent to ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City to deal with the tumor, where he also met Dr. Michael Confer.
"He has a relatively rare tumor and these are benign, not cancer, but they can cause destruction right there in the middle of the brain," said Dr. Confer.
Having this type of tumor makes Aaron the perfect candidate for proton therapy. During his treatments, protons are sent directly into the tumor, preserving the healthy tissue around it.
"In particular Aaron is really smart and inquisitive child and we want to make sure that he stays that way, so we've taken special care to eliminate radiation from the learning parts of his brain," said Dr. Confer.
It's a treatment that will enable Aaron to continue on his path to become a doctor, just like Dr. Confer, who has become his mentor.
"He's actually been so encouraging with Aaron's future goals and what he wants to be and he's given him a way to see that it is very attainable," said Aaron's mother.
Aaron graduated from ProCure last week, after 30 treatments.
If you would like to see the technology used in Aaron's treatment, the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City is inviting the public to tour the facility's 220-ton cancer-fighting cyclotron from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 26 at the center located at 5901 W. Memorial Rd. The cyclotron is only open to the public for tours twice a year.