In January 2006, 3 year old Gabe Rochefort was bombing down the ski slopes in Wyoming. His parents were thrilled that he had taken to this sport so young and with so much enthusiasm. Just a couple months later Gabe was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. No illness, no warning. It was an ependymona – a malignant tumor that in young children often comes with a poor prognosis because they are typically located in places that make them difficult to remove. Gabe’s was in one of those places – against the brain stem. Neurosurgeon, Dr. Anthony Avellino at Children’s Hospital remarkably was able to remove all visible tumor without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. Had it been just a couple years earlier, the risks in surgery would have been much greater. Every year the techniques and prognosis improve.
The next step was radiation and again Gabe benefited greatly from research. Gabe received conformal radiation, which divides the dose into several fragments. Radiology oncologist, Dr. James Douglas, worked meticulously with a computer program to formulate a prescription that would aim those fragments carefully to dodge primary centers in the brain whenever possible. This treatment option was especially important because although radiation is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer, there is concern about its effects on the brain especially with children 3 years of age and younger that are in a critical period of brain development. Although his parents wish that he could have avoided radiation completely, this treatment breakthrough greatly minimized Gabe’s long term risks in receiving radiation.
Against all odds, today Gabe is completely healthy & thriving in every aspect of his life. He and his family know that his positive outcome is much too rare. Supporting research that eliminates toxic treatments and makes complete recovery possible for all kids like Gabe is their mission.