Mission Accomplished: Ben Lives

September 17, 2012
Topics: Cancer (oncology)

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This summer, as NASA's Curiosity rover approached Mars, tension permeated the control room and a sense of fear and wonderment gripped stargazers all over the world. Was it really possible that human minds, armed with nothing but the scientific method and stubbornness, could create a technology capable of exploring our planetary cousin? If Curiosity failed it would have represented untold losses in money and scientific labor. When the rover landed safely, millions of us took a deep breath. The NASA control room, where tension suddenly eased, erupted into celebration.

Now, put yourself in that control room, watching Curiosity get closer and closer to its destination. Imagine yourself in some twisted dimension where, if the rover doesn't land perfectly, your child dies. This is what it is like to be the parent of a child with a brain tumor.

In April of 2011, my wife and I found that our toddler, Ben, had a mass in his posterior fossa. Ben's surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children, Dr. Joel Boaz, managed to remove the tumor without damaging any of Ben's brain tissue. A week later, he put a shunt into Ben's head and abdomen, completing another complicated surgery flawlessly. Ben's oncologist, Dr. Shih, recommended proton therapy in Bloomington to irradiate any leftover cancer cells. The entire process of Ben's cure still leaves me in awe - Ben's oncology team performed the equivalent of landing a rover on Mars, only did so with a child�s life hanging in the balance..

It's 14 months later, Ben has just received another clean MRI. With grace and genius, Ben's oncology team at Riley used their expertise and skills to execute a flawless treatment of my son's cancer. NASA celebrates successful missions with two words, but in this case those words are too impersonal and won't do.

For us, it's not Mission Accomplished, but rather, Ben Lives.

Chris Edwards, Ed. D.

Chris Edwards, Ed.D, teaches AP World History teacher at Fishers High School, and is the author of several books including 'Teaching Genius: Redefining Education with Lessons from Science and Philosophy.' Chris donates the royalties from 'Teaching Genius' to Riley Children's Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research at Riley Hospital. Chris and his wife Beth live in New Palestine are the parents of two boys, Blake, and Ben, who is doing well after being treated at Riley for a cancerous brain tumor.

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