By David Esteppe
Jennifer Wisler of the Sunshine Kids organization says, “We give kids an opportunity to get away from hospitals and cancer treatments, if only for a week. They get to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trip surrounded by kids their same age, from across the country, who understand firsthand the struggles of childhood cancer.”
After hearing about this organization and its mission, it was an enormous pleasure for the Mountain Messenger to meet Lewisburg’s Brady Powers Mickey this week to hear about his experience going on last month’s 25th Annual Sunshine Kids Texas Hill Country Adventure trip.
Just a few of the exciting events the kids participated in included visiting Sea World and Schiltterbahn, tubing the San Marcos River, horseback riding, a police escort ride to the Capitol and much more.
The 15-year-old young man radiates sunshine with a ready smile and an unruly, but full, head of black hair, while giving permission for the interview to go anywhere it needed to go. Brady explained how he was chosen for the trip, along with two other kids, while undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments in Roanoke, VA, a few months ago. Twenty-seven kids made the trip, but one of the three chosen to go with his group from the hospital in Roanoke had to cancel at the last minute because of a hiccup in his medical situation. “These things happen,” said Brady’s mother Peri.
Two highlights of the trip for Brady was a zip line-type ride on a wave-board across the lake at the Texas ranch hosting the event after two attempts at waterskiing went afoul. One-upping his friend who had befriended a small toad by finding a much larger toad was also a coup he enjoyed.
Brady then told his story, the cancer story, which began when he was 13. He is in his third year of tackling the invasion of his body. He said he began having pain in his thoracic region, having trouble digesting food and vomiting. After a few weeks with no improvement, Brady said facetiously, “We did what anyone would do; we swung by a Med Express.” This stop was followed by traveling on down to the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, where the best guess about his symptoms pointed to Crohn’s disease.
With the advice of friends and family, Brady went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCH), where further testing, including an MRI, would spot a softball-size tumor apparently growing off of his pancreas and spidering all over everything else in his thoracic cavity. The MRI, and subsequent DNA of the tumor, left Brady with the only case of stage IV pancreatic cancer, which his physicians had never seen in a 13-year-old before.
Brady said he was fortunately put on a morphine pump, which affected his memory of the following month of extremely aggressive adult-sized chemo treatments at CCH. After the first month at CCH, Brady returned home and began alternating a week at home with a week on chemo in Roanoke.
Two-and-a-half years later, in the early fall of 2014, Brady’s doctors announced “REMISSION.” Four powerful cancers drugs had bested the cancer, but not Brady.
The remission lasted until just before Christmas, when the cancer was spotted making a return.
In January this year, the treatment strategy would shift, due to the harshness of the previous regiment, and the new FDA approval of Lynparza and a once a week infusion of previously effective chemo, but in less harsh dosages. The DNA analysis of Brady’s pancreatic cancer shows the presence of the BRCA gene. Lynparza is a poly ADP-ribose inhibitor that exploits tumor DNA repair pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells.
Meanwhile Brady plans to enjoy his favorite meal of bacon cheeseburgers and he invites everyone to follow his progress on the Facebook page devoted to updates: Brady’s Powers.
The interview ended and Brady joined a friend in a walk through town.
Information about Sunshine Kids can be found by visiting www.sunshinekids.org. If interested in supporting Brady’s journey visit www.youcaring.com/bradyspowers.