Boy With Rare Brain Tumor Beats All Odds After Given a Year to Live


He and his mother, Lisa, then met radiation oncologist Dr. Larry Kun, who informed them that there was no sign of spreading to the spine, "which is good for you and good for everyone."

"I actually stayed up late one night researching. They say once it gets to the spine you have to take action immediately," Daniel said at the time. "The spine just connects to all the organs."

"That's true," Kun added. "And your spine looks perfectly good."

Surviving Treatment With 'Strength, Hope, Faith'

Despite the good news, Daniel still had a difficult journey ahead as he began a rigorous and painful course of treatment in an effort to save his life.

"He's on a protocol that is very intense, probably one of the most intense in the nation for this type of tumor, so we have to hope that there are children who are going to survive this," said Merchant.

Daniel's radiation dose needed to be big enough to stop the cancer from returning, while doing as little damage as possible to his brain. It is a dose too strong to give to children under age 3 without causing significant brain damage.

Throughout the treatment, Daniel was relentlessly optimistic, saying he feels mentally and physically strong and doesn't ask "Why me?"

"Hey, you can't change it, so why bother?" he said. " [I] would rather me than other kids who probably couldn't take it, and I was the person who before all of this was afraid of needles and stuff like that, so I pretty much right now am not afraid of needles as much as I was before."

"Daniel and I talked the first night the neurosurgeon told him that it was cancer, and we were curled up together in the hospital bed, and I said to him, 'You know what Daniel? I'm going to turn off all my emotions right now except for strength and hope and faith,'" said his mother Lisa. "We have to get through this, and I said to him, 'I'm not going to cry about it because I can't. I have to stay strong.' And he squeezed my hand, and ever since then we've just thought this is something we have to do."

Chemotherapy for Children: 'I Was Horrified'

By the end of January 2008, Daniel had received 31 radiation treatments. Doctors were delighted with his progress, and he was finally allowed to go home to Auburn, N.Y., for the month of February. To the family's surprise, the entire town was abuzz with ways to reach out to Daniel. There were fundraisers planned and thoughtful gifts, like a handmade quilt.

"Everyone sewed a little patch for who was praying for me," Daniel said at the time. "It'll keep me warm; it's just amazing what everyone in the community does for us and our family."

And best of all, during the short respite from the hospital, Daniel got to get outside for some old-fashioned fun with his friends -- sledding.

"I love the snow. It's like I was born into it," he said. "I didn't want to hit my incision, so mom made me wear a helmet that's bigger to fit around my head."

The month was both precious for Daniel, and a painful reminder of all he was missing.

"I'm feeling a little anxious about going to St. Jude," he said, before returning for chemotherapy. "One, I just don't want to leave the house and my family."

"The chemotherapy has been described to him as poisons that are going to be put into his body and they're going to kill the good cells as well as the bad cells," Lisa said. "And so that's something that's scary for him, thinking that a poison is going to be put in his system."

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