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Audrey Comes 20,000 Miles To Get Help In Jacksonville

4:44 PM, Feb 9, 2012   |    comments
Audrey Antonia Anderson came 20,000 miles to Jacksonville for a cure.
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JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Her name sounds as if she could be an international model:  Audrey Antonia Anderson.  Right now, though, she's only six and she's dealing with a big hurdle, a brain tumor.

Her mom, Sue, says she chose the UF Proton Therapy Center on the campus of Shands Jacksonville because when she called she was impressed with the personal service on the phone.  She was connected with doctors to talk with almost immediately.

Her daughter, Audrey, was having headaches.  And, although it may sound weird, she was having vomiting episodes when it rained.  The raindrop sound was magnified in her head.

Scans in their home country of Australia showed Audrey had a tumor in her brain.  It was about the size of a quarter.  It wasn't cancer, but it was dangerous.

The tumor is called craniopharyngioma.  According to pediatric radiation oncologist at the UF Proton Center, Dr. Danny Indelicato, the location in the brain is what makes it dangerous. 

The tumor's growth threatens the nearby optic nerve and pituitary glands.  Without treatment, Audrey could go blind or have growth and development problems.

Audrey is "magic," her mother says.  She's been a "bubble" of joy throughout 30 proton therapy treatments in Jacksonville.  Her final treatment over now, the family plans to head back to Australia soon.

As for the prognosis?  Dr. Indelicato says proton therapy is designed to damage tumor cells and disrupt the DNA so the cell cannot replicate. Basically, that would mean a cure for Audrey, but it could take months.

Dr. Indelicato says the tumor would be reduced to a small "nodule of scar tissue." He is optimistic her sight will be saved.

What is the success rate?  He says 8 out of 10 cases, traditionally, are considered successful.

But back to the vomiting during the rain.  Audrey's mother believes there's a connection to the tumor.   "Clearly it was changing the way things sounded in her head," she says.

Audrey is a big fan of Snow White and her mother is a big fan of the Jacksonville area.  She says, "It was kind of weird, actually.  Why is everyone so nice?"   She discovered the feeling became contagious. And she's grateful she was surrounded by such support.

The Proton Therapy Center at Shands Jax is one of three proton centers in the U.S. which handles pediatrics.


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