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An irrepressible spirit

Patients Speak Biotech

 Kyle Miron faced a brain cancer diagnosis at the age of 31 with a toddler at home and a wife who was eight months pregnant. The former college point guard drew on his spirituality and his successful treatment gave him a more proactive attitude toward life.

Kyle Miron’s odyssey with brain cancer started in mid-2016 when he first began to suffer headaches, dizziness and vision problems. In November of that year, after a particularly bad day, his wife Eliza, who was eight months pregnant with their second child, took him to the emergency room. When the media producer and former college point guard got the diagnosis – four medulloblastomas, the largest the size of a golf ball on his brain stem – and learned doctors wanted to operate the next day, he drew on his spirituality and background on the court to find the courage to face the ordeal.

“For an athlete to compete in any sport at the collegiate level there must be a visceral pleasure or thirst, for the blissful state experienced through the journey to achieving a victory,” he says. “When brain cancer showed up court side, I knew there wasn’t going to be a rematch in this game. I had only one option: To hit the game-winning shot.”

Medulloblastomas are rare, especially in adults. There are about 400 new patients diagnosed with this type of cancer in the United States every year, and they have a median age of seven years. Only one-fourth of all cases are in adults between the ages of 20 and 44. After that, the incidence falls off sharply. Kyle says the rarity of medulloblastomas in adults made it more difficult to decide on a post-operative treatment plan.

However, there was some good news. Unlike many medulloblastomas, Kyle’s was not metastatic. That improves survival rates significantly. The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States says that 60 percent of adults with non-metastatic medulloblastoma are alive at five years following diagnosis, and 44 percent at 10 years. Those are better odds than many other types of brain cancers.

Also, promising new chemotherapy and radiation options, like proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT), are now available. Kyle’s treatment plan would successfully leverage the benefits of the latter.

But first, Kyle and Eliza had to face the surgery and its aftermath. Surgeons were able to remove about three-quarters of the largest tumor, but left the rest in place in order to avoid risk of damage to his brain and motor functions. Kyle soon needed a second surgery to install a shunt when it became apparent that there was too much cerebral-spinal fluid building up in his brain.

It took over two weeks for Kyle to get his motor functions back, but he persevered and was then able to consult with his doctor over ways to treat the rest of the large tumor and the others that were not removed.

The advantage of proton beam radiation therapy is that it uses protons; conventional radiation therapy uses photons. This reduces the amount of radiation received by the normal, healthy tissues surrounding the treated area, lowering side effects. Kyle describes his proton radiation experience as like having “a sculptor chiseling away a fine piece of marble.”

Again he drew on his strong spirituality to help deal with the experience. When being injected with chemo or having a radiation session, “I stilled my mind and began to pray for only the healing qualities of this mutation to take effect; and for all negative attributes to disappear forever.”

They had the radiotherapy done in Chicago at the Proton Therapy Center, associated with Northwestern University Hospital. The facility was too far from home for a daily commute, so he had to stay in a hotel for the month-plus-long ordeal, and Eliza’s pregnancy meant she was unable to shuttle him back and forth. This also wasn’t covered by his insurance, so his sister arranged a Go Fund Me campaign that raised nearly $50,000 from 682 supporters to help defray the costs.

The radiation and follow-up chemotherapy had their intended effect, Kyle wrote in a blog post in June of the following year: “My latest MRI brain scan came back free and clear of cancer and they [the doctors] have decided to take me off of IV infused chemotherapy! There will be no more sharp needles or metallic poison entering this blood stream. I will take a chemo pill called Lomustine every six weeks, which will act as a preventative defense mechanism focusing specifically on disallowing cancer cells from forming in my brain tissue,” he explained. “This is a victory for the Miron family and for each soul that poured their love into the many prayers sent my way. We did it!”

Kyle says the experience has clarified how he sees the world, and chooses his priorities. It has brought him closer to family, to Jesus, and to “realizing that what matters in life can’t be purchased.”

Before his diagnosis, he says, “I killed myself for people’s approval and I feared failure like a monster under my bed. I made up stories in my mind relaying over and over the mistakes I’ve made in my life and why I didn’t deserve success or happiness. I allowed those with material success to dictate how I should feel and where I should be at this point in my life instead of trusting the Source. Not anymore.”

“Shaking hands with the Grim Reaper changes you,” he says. “There is pre-cancer Kyle and post-cancer Kyle, and I’d take post-cancer Kyle any day.”

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