Beating Cancer as a Kid, Only to Fight It Again as an Adult

Still, Kathy Riley said the treatment was the only reasonable choice.

"Given the chance to do it again, we would do radiation; we would do it again," she said. "Absolutely, we would. ... It's the only course that we could have taken because it was the only proven cure at the time."

And the Rileys have used their experience to help others. Kathy Riley co-founded an organization called We Can that helps other parents of children with cancer through treatment decisions. It is an organization in which Peter, now 21, plays an active role.

"I've always wanted to help kids, to help someone who maybe went through almost the same thing I did," he said. "At first it was difficult. Now I think to myself, 'I'm not like everyone else, but in a way I think of myself as being like everyone in many ways.'"

Casey Quinn: Six Rounds Against Cancer, and Counting

Like Krauer and Riley, Quinn is no stranger to the flip side of lifesaving cancer treatment. his battle with cancer began in 1994, when at the age of 17, he went to his doctor with severe and mysterious gastrointestinal symptoms. He underwent a battery of tests, but it was only when doctors performed a colonoscopy that they found numerous polyps in his intestine -- evidence of colon cancer.

Casey Quinn has battled cancer many times -- each time he has won.

Surgeons originally believed that they could rid Quinn's body of cancer with surgery alone. But shortly after he began seeing doctors for treatment of his colon cancer, he noticed a pain in the back of his pelvis. A subsequent medical scan revealed yet another cancer, this one in the bone of his right hip.

"That was pretty frightening," Quinn said. "That's when it turned from just colon surgery to, 'OK, now it's really bad.'"

He now faced surgery, radiation and a strong chemotherapy regimen. Recalling the chemo, Quinn notes, "It was nasty -- really, really nasty side effects." The 6-foot-3 Quinn went from 150 pounds to 115 pounds over the course of his treatment.

Meanwhile, the surgery to remove the bone tumor in his hip left him with severe damage to his sciatic nerve, which extends down the right leg. While the surgery to remove the cancer from his hip was a success, Quinn said the pain in his foot and leg from the damaged nerve was nearly unbearable.

But the cancer, at least, seemed to be behind him. Quinn graduated from high school in 1996, and life seemed to return to normal as he headed to college. But he still checked in at the Mayo Clinic periodically for routine checkups. And it was during one of these checkups, in October of 1998, that his next battle with cancer began.

"That one showed a spot in my right heel, on the same side as the tumor had been in my pelvis," he said. "I'll never forget the feeling of that biopsy in my heel."

The biopsy came back positive. And this time doctors felt that the location of the tumor in his bone, combined with the low likelihood that chemo would eliminate the cancer a second time, necessitated a more radical approach. They told Quinn his best chance involved amputating his leg.

At first he said no. "I was just reacting -- overreacting maybe," he said. "It was just the most shocking thing in my life.

"The next day, some switch went off in me and I decided, 'Of course I have to do this.'"

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...