The numbers are mind-boggling: One stem cell transplant; six tumors; seven rounds of chemotherapy; 12 rounds of radiation; 20 rounds of proton beam radiation; six months of immunotherapy.
All before he was 5 years old.
Blaine Hawkins, Mt. Carmel, Ill., is one of a handful of survivors of neuroblastoma that spread to the adrenal glands, spine and brain.
Blaine’s journey began before he was born. An ultrasound when his mother Susan was pregnant revealed a cyst on his kidney. After Blaine was born, an MRI helped doctors discover he had neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in infants. Blaine was just 9 weeks when old he underwent surgery to remove his tumor at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
When Blaine was 18 months old, two tumors were found on his brain and Riley Pediatric Neurosurgeon Jodi Smith, M.D., performed a 14-hour surgery which saved his life. More tumors were found by his adrenal gland soon after that. When he was 3 years old, yet another tumor was found on his brain. At one point Blaine was given only a five percent chance of survival.
But research at Riley is helping improve the odds for Blaine and other children with cancer. “Blaine participated in a Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial to evaluate a monoclonal antibody (immunotherapy) directed against neuroblastoma cells,” says Riley Pediatric Oncologist James Croop, M.D., Ph.D., who led Blaine’s cancer care. “This antibody was ultimately approved by the FDA based upon the results of this trial and is now commercially available for all children with neuroblastoma.”
Today, Blaine is 8 years old and has had no evidence of cancer nor restrictions on his activities. He came into this world overshadowed by tests and scans and surgeries, but has now settled into the normal rhythms of childhood. He loves playing basketball, spending time outdoors with his dad Vic, and his world is filled with LEGOs, Nerf guns and army men.
Blaine is a testament to how excellent medical care combined with cutting edge research can have tremendous outcomes. To donors who support Riley’s pediatric research, Blaine’s mother Susan has this message: “You are providing the research necessary to allow these children hope for a normal childhood. Being able to play catch with daddy in the back yard—it takes donors like you to make this possible.” Vic and Susan enjoy doing their part to give back to Riley by sharing Blaine’s story in media interviews and Riley Dance Marathons at high schools and colleges.
Throughout the years, Susan has hired a professional photographer to take family portraits. When Blaine was 3 years old, she told the photographer, “We need one last family picture because he’s not going to make it.”
Thanks to Riley Hospital for Children, she was wrong.