Kayden's Story

Article by Regina Titelius, PerthNow

When Kayden Gaffney was three and survived surgery to remove an aggressive brain cancer, doctors described him as a miracle boy.

Surgeons at Princess Margaret Hospital removed a 4cm medulloblastoma tumour before he battled through a full year of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

"When he came out of surgery, they were talking about him like he was a miracle kid," proud mum Stacey, 42, of Baldivis said.

Kayden, now 14, along with his mum, dad Andy, 45, and 13-year-old sister Billie (pictured together below), recently celebrated 10 years of remission.

Surgeons around the world now discuss his case and other "child pioneers" who are surviving brain cancer longer than ever before.

Kayden's fighting spirit has not only seen him defy doctors' predictions of a limited life, but he's also developed incredible empathy for other children battling cancer.

"When I go back to the hospital and I look at all these kids who are bald with feeding tubes, it reminds me of everything that happened to me when I was little," Kayden said. "I feel lucky to be alive, but I'd give it all up if I could cure them all."

Doctors discovered Kayden's tumour in November 2005.

"They said if it had been another six weeks he wouldn't be here," Stacey said.

The Gaffneys were told before the surgery that Kayden only had a 40 per cent chance of surviving the operation, and little hope of surviving harsh doses of treatment without major brain damage. They warned it was unlikely he would walk properly and ever ride a bike or run. But the boy who was described by PMH staff as a "fighter" has shot those predictions clean out of the water.

Just one day after surgery to successfully remove the entire tumour, Kayden was out of the intensive care unit and walking around his ward.

He went on to have six weeks of intense radiotherapy, followed by months of chemotherapy which ended in March 2007 when he was deemed to be in remission.

When he's not attending his Year 9 classes at Tranby College, Kayden likes to practice boxing, kick around the soccer ball and dreams of one day becoming a professional gamer.

"I'm a fighter. If I had cancer again, I'd beat it. I've had cancer for a year, I know what it feels like, I would beat it. I've beat it once, I'd beat it twice," Kayden said.

The teenager knows all too well the stakes are high if cancer did return.

Because of his previous treatment, he could not receive any more radiotherapy which Stacey described as "one-time deal".

Kayden and his family don't gloss over the "curve balls" that have come their way including two jarring scares that the cancer may have returned, reminding the Gaffney's the threat of cancer returning looms large.

In 2009, a routine scan revealed an "abnormality" where the tumour had been. They monitored it but the abnormality disappeared.

Another abnormality appeared last year and while it has not completely vanished, Kayden's primary oncologist, Dr Nick Gottardo at PMH said he was confident it was "not sinister".

Dr Gottardo said there was no proper explanation for the phenomenon as there has been very little research on long-term brain cancer survivors.

"This cohort of children who are surviving for many years, they are pioneers, we're learning from them," he said.

He continues to deal with some health complications caused by his tumour and treatment, including lung disease and adrenal insufficiencies, which means he has to take growth hormones and other medications.

He also has some hearing and short term memory loss.

The Gaffneys say the ordeal has changed their outlook on life.

"We don't save things for another time, we do use the good china, we try to have fun and go out when we can," Stacey said.

 

Dr Gottardo has received a $400,000 Cancer Council WA Research Fellowship to help investigate a new class of more effective chemotherapy drugs which it's hoped will lead to new clinical trials for children with the brain tumour, Medulloblastoma (MB), and improved treatments that don't have the same side-effects experienced by Kayden. Read more about Dr Gottardo's research in this article written when we announced the funding last year.

 


Found in:  News - 2017  | View all news