May is Pediatric Brain Cancer Awareness Month and this week, Q13 Fox is featuring 3 local kids who have battled this devastating disease in an effort to learn more about their fight and how we can all get involved.
Roarke Hufford is 14-years-old and lives in Issaquah, Washington with his family. Roarke is a busy teen who likes to ride his bike, play tennis and go camping. In 2017, Roarke was diagnosed with a pure germ cell tumor. It's a growth that forms in the brain in utero. Roarke underwent 4 months of chemotherapy and radiation to target the tumor. While at Seattle Children's Hospital, he got a special visit from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who has helped lead the push for more awareness in the Strong Against Cancer movement.
In April of 2018, Roarke finished his final treatment and now his doctors say his brain shows no evidence of disease. Although Roarke is no longer in the hospital, his big personality and humor left a mark on his medical team.
"Actually for one of his MRI's, I think it was the time of Halloween he dressed up as me," said Dr. Nick Vitanza, an oncologist at Seattle Children's Hospital and one of Roarke's doctors. "He had a big beard on and had a plaid shirt to his clinic visit. He's just a delightful kid who really did overcome a lot."
Currently, Roarke is finishing up his last year of middle school and excited to be active this summer with his family and friends. In his school yearbook, Roarke was voted 'most likely to cure cancer.'
Awareness around pediatric brain and spinal cancer is critically important. Right now, only 4-percent of national funding for cancer funnels down to kids like Roarke. Doctors say more money for research is needed to come up with better treatments for kids battling cancer.
And while money is necessary, it's also important people become aware of the symptoms of brain and spinal cancers because doctors say they can often mimic other illnesses. While headaches in kids can be normal or the result of dehydration, headaches with increased vomiting are not normal and could be a sign of pressure on the brain. That, in addition to vision and balance problems are all reasons to see your pediatrician for further evaluation according to Dr. Vitanza.
"The state that your child is in neurologically, if you feel at any point they're starting to lose skills or move backwards whether it's strength or their different abilities. I think that's always a reason to talk to your pediatrician," said Dr. Vitanza.
If you would like to follow Roarke's story, click here.