MRI of Blake's softball-sized tumor

good thoughts only

how Blake faced cancer with hope

Blake is a pretty normal 12-year-old boy. He loves fishing with his grandpa, playing video games, and his sister, Madeleine – although he might not always admit it. A resident of St. Paris, OH, he’s smart, funny and full of optimism. Those qualities helped him and his family get through the most difficult period of their lives – fighting brain cancer.

In July 2016, Blake started having headaches and double vision. Doctors at Dayton Children’s found he had a rare tumor the size of a softball in his head.

“I will never forget looking at that image – something inside of Blake that should never be inside a child,” says Amberly, his mom.

Blake’s family has a rule – “No bad thoughts; only good.” That sense of positivity and hopefulness kept them looking forward to a future without cancer. And they were rewarded. After brain surgery at Dayton Children’s, followed by 33 rounds of proton therapy in Philadelphia, Blake is cancer free.

With his trademark positive outlook, Blake made the decision to help other kids with cancer by donating his tumor to the Dayton Children’s Tumor Tissue Bank, headed by Robert Lober, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon and brain tumor researcher.

“Donating it to science creates a sense of comfort that (the fight) doesn’t stop here,” Amberly says. “We are gaining understanding to prevent and stop childhood cancer and brain tumors. It creates hope for a whole bunch of families.”

Brain tumors are the leading cause of disease-related death in children. Yet, therapies to treat cancer patients haven’t changed much in decades. Many tumors don’t respond to chemotherapy, and the other available treatments can have side effects that cause life-long damage.

With donor support, Dr. Lober launched a living tissue bank at Dayton Children’s to study tumors in new ways. It is now part of an international partnership to study and share data on tumors.

When Blake was diagnosed, the patient tower was still being built so he stayed in the old hematology/oncology unit during his surgery and recovery. Now, he still has to visit the hospital on a regular basis for check-ups. Visiting the Mills Family Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in the new patient tower is a totally different experience for him and his mom.

“Something that has consistently remained the same is the quality of care,” Amberly says. All of Blake’s doctors and caregivers know him by name and have always taken the time to get to know him personally.

One of the benefits of additional space in the tower is shorter wait time, she says. “Patients are able to move through the process more quickly. This is very important if you have a child who doesn’t feel good or has a weakened immune system.”

Plus, the tower is kid friendly; kids can focus on the inviting environment instead of worrying about their upcoming appointment.

For now, Blake is ok with occasional check-ups at Dayton Children’s. He recognizes that not every kid with cancer is as fortunate as he is.

“It feels amazing that I survived something that not many other people can,” says Blake. “It will be even more amazing when we can figure out what’s causing it. Then we can stop it.”

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