Stories about: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

He lost his sight to cancer, but not his vision of a full life

Man blind from leukemia climbs 14,000 ft. mountain after stem cell transplant.

When Tim Conners collected his wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2012 at the age of 18, he was blind from childhood leukemia that had spread to his optic nerve and craving inspiration to transcend his disability. A football player and wrestler who’d never been an outdoorsman, he asked to meet Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on seven continents.

Tim’s wish came true. He had 2½ terrifying but transformative days of outdoor adventures in Colorado with Erik, who lost his sight to a degenerative eye disorder at 13.

Now Tim is training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the 19,000-foot peak in Tanzania in May, shortly after he graduates from Ithaca College. He’s already climbed four peaks in Colorado, including the 14,000-foot, snow- and loose-rock-covered Mount Sherman last summer. He’s trekked and rafted in the Grand Canyon.

“In a lot of ways, losing my sight gave me my vision,” says Tim.

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Spencer gets back on the court after cancer

Spencer is back on the court after cancer.

For much of his 17 years, Spencer Riley has lived to play basketball. This winter, his favorite sport helped the teenager get back to life.

Riley was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2016 and treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center that summer. He underwent an intensive three-month treatment cycle: one week of inpatient chemotherapy at Boston Children’s Hospital, two weeks of recuperation at home, and then back to Boston Children’s.

While occasionally well enough to go on family outings, he was still too weak to shoot or even dribble a basketball.

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When your sons are both diagnosed with cancer

cancer-sons

One day, our 2-year-old son Javon complained about a bit of pain at daycare. It seemed harmless enough. But after a visit to the pediatrician, we ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery. There, they discovered that a mass in his body was causing the pain. “Cancer?” we feared, but it was too early to confirm.

As young, first-time parents, their father and I were unsure where to turn for help. There’s no manual on how to be a parent when you hear the news that your son has been diagnosed with cancer.

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Post cancer, post rotationplasty, teen athlete continues to excel

rotationplasty- Miles playing baseballThe ball leaps off the metal bat with an unmistakable “ping” that denotes good contact. Miles Goldberg runs to first base, from which the 13-year-old will soon contemplate – and safely execute – a steal of second.

Miles is used to transitioning naturally with the seasons from football to hockey to baseball. This year, however, has been different. Every hit, catch, and glide across the ice has had far more meaning to the eighth-grader, who recently completed osteosarcoma treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

His treatment included a wide resection of his right proximal tibia in June 2015 that resulted in the loss of most of his right leg bones and part of his thigh bone. Miles is able to move more freely on a prosthetic thanks to an innovative surgery called rotationplasty, which is an option for some Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s patients with osteosarcoma whose cancers require very wide surgical resections.

In the procedure, Miles’ lower right leg and foot were rotated and attached to his thigh bone, so his ankle now functions as a new knee joint. The prosthetic leg is modified to slip over his reattached foot, and makes up for the difference in height with his left leg.

“There were several amputation options, but after I watched some videos about how much mobility you have with rotationplasty, and met some people who had it done, I knew it was for me,” says Miles. “I even met a kid who played varsity high school football and baseball after the same surgery.”

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