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Casey Luttrull - Brain

Casey Luttrull - Brain

Casey is a tough 19-year-old. Studying to be a utility lineman in his hometown of Spokane, he hunts and fishes, plays baseball, and sometimes, is too tough for his own good. “I had a migraine for a week, been throwing up, trying to go to class, but was totally sick—it felt like red hot needles were being stuck in my eyes. So I finally went to the hospital. They said, due to the pressure on my skull, that I would have stroked out if I had waited six more hours to come in.”

The good news was that he got to the hospital in time. Then came the bad news: that pressure on his skull? Pineal germinoma, a brain tumor, most common in male adolescents. 

The trip to the doctor’s office turned into a trip to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital for emergency brain surgery to release the pressure. He was then flown by critical care airplane to Swedish Hospital in Seattle, where he recieved follow-up care and a post-surgery treatment plan. As is common, this plan was reviewed by a group of physicians at Sacred Heart, called a tumor board. 

“The tumor board said protons would be the best route,” said Casey.

For brain tumors, and for young people, proton therapy is often the best solution. The precision beam of protons, which reduces radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissue, is important in protecting the rest of the brain. And proton therapy’s expected reduction in radiation-induced secondary cancers is particularly important for people with decades to live.

Casey went through four rounds of chemo and five weeks of proton therapy. Because the only proton therapy center within the northwest is SCCA Proton Therapy Center, he had to move to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patient housing for the five weeks of daily treatments. Family members, including his parents, grandfather and aunt, took turns staying with him and driving him to his daily appointments.   

The time spent at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center was positive for Casey. “Everyone at the center was amazing—so nice and so caring about the situation I was going through. And even though it was a hard time, I live by a simple motto: Just because I have a terrible disease doesn’t mean I have to be a terrible person.” His goal was to remain in a good mood, and to lift the mood of others around him. “It just makes everyone’s job easier,” said Casey.

After completing treatment on January 30, 2017, Casey is back home and ready to continue lineman training in the fall. The lack of side effects from the radiation has made the return to his normal life a seamless process. After school, he plans to start his two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship and eventually work for the power company. And his future looks bright on the health front, as well. “My cancer has a 90% cure rate, and my doctor says I should never see this cancer again.”

Casey poses with staff at his graduation from proton therapy.

Casey with his nurse and radiation oncologist.

Special t-shirts made for Casey and his Care Team.