Teen who fought for mixed cancer treatments to get more radiation

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Virginia teenager who successfully fought in court for the right to pursue nontraditional treatment for his lymphatic cancer will return to Mississippi this weekend for a third round of radiation therapy.

Abraham Cherrix, 17, said Wednesday that he will spend about a month at a cancer clinic getting pinpoint radiation for a small tumor on his right lung that showed up on a scan taken last week.

Cherrix said the fact that no tumors appeared anywhere else indicates his Hodgkin’s disease is retreating.

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“When you consider that I’ve had cancer four or five times, and each time it’s been an aggressive cancer with massive tumors or spreadout small tumors where there wasn’t much we could do for treatment, when you have no cancer in your lymph system and a small tumor somewhere else, it’s not really that big of a deal,” Cherrix said in a telephone interview from his home in Floyd.

He moved to the western Virginia town in May with his mother and four siblings.

Cherrix’s parents separated earlier this year, said his mother, Rose Cherrix. The bank foreclosed on the family’s house on the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague in February, she said, and the family closed their kayaking business, which lost money as they were embroiled in the court battle.

In 2005, the teen had been so sickened by three months of chemotherapy that he declined a more intensive round. His oncologist at the time alerted social services officials when Cherrix chose to use an alternative liquid herbal treatment that is banned from sale in the United States, and his parents were charged with medical neglect.

A juvenile judge ordered Cherrix to return to chemotherapy last July. At an August court hearing, Cherrix’s attorneys and social services officials agreed to allow the teenager to forgo chemotherapy and undergo alternative therapies.

Since then, Dr. Arnold Smith, a radiation oncologist in Greenwood, Miss., has been treating Cherrix with radiation therapy, plus supplements and medicines to bolster the immune system.

His first radiation treatment, last fall, focused on two tumors in his neck and near his windpipe.

In December, a scan showed five new tumors: one each in the lymph nodes under his arms, one near the collarbone and two in the left lung. He returned to Mississippi in January for radiation, but the right lung was not treated at the time because he had pneumonia, Rose Cherrix said.

“You have to say, ‘He’s got a spot in his lung, but hey, look at the big picture here,’” she said of the latest scan.