It was a long haul – geographically, physically and emotionally – but it’s done.
Kenna-Rae Stockbruegger and her mom Michelle just returned from two months in Boston where Kenna-Rae, 14, was treated for a benign brain tumour, a rare craniopharyngioma.
It is about the size of a golf ball and sits amongst her optic nerve, her pituitary gland, her brain stem and her hypothalamus. Treatment involves shrinking the tumour to grape-size and then removing it surgically.
The Stockbrueggers went to Boston because doctors did not want to damage Kenna-Rae’s brain by using standard radiation. Proton radiation, with pinpoint accuracy, was only available in the U.S., explained Michelle.
Before Kenna-Rae could undergo the treatment, doctors needed to plan the route of the proton beam. Kenna-Rae had to have a CT Scan, an MRI and be fitted for a special mask that would keep her head completely still. Doctors also needed to create an aperture for the beam to go through as well as an acrylic mould to fit the tumour.
The type of tumour she has is often accompanied by cysts, Michelle explains, and when Kenna-Rae went for the initial consultation in Boston, a cyst had grown and was creating pressure in her brain. On July 12 she underwent a surgery in Boston to drain it. Radiation had to be delayed for a week. On July 23 it began, and from then to Sept. 2, she underwent 29 treatments.
The treatments took about 20 to 25 minutes each, says Michelle, most of the time simply ensuring the positioning was exact. The radiation itself lasted about two minutes.
The proton machine is about three storeys tall and sits behind a wall, she says. It rotates around the patient.
Now that they’re back in Salmon Arm, Kenna-Rae faces a waiting game. The process is slow, explains Michelle, and it could take anywhere from two to nine months for the tumour to shrink. Once it does, the surgery will be done in Vancouver.
“They said she’s not out of the woods yet,” adds Michelle, but so far so good.
Kenna-Rae is doing really well, although two months was a long time to be away from home.
They were treated well in Boston, says Michelle, with treats provided including a free day at Fenway Park and at the zoo.
Michelle would like to emphasize her appreciation for all the financial help the community provided so she and Kenna-Rae could go stay in Boston.
“We couldn’t have gone without the support.”