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With Early Help and Treatment, Rescue From Eye Cancer and Possibly Death

By Alice Reid
Friday, January 4, 2008

Recently, Adam Good made his first visit to Children's Hospital as a regular kid, not a patient. There he was, singing with his fifth-grade chorus as part of the entertainment for a holiday party in the atrium.

Most of his trips to Children's haven't been so fun. He has gone to the hospital for nearly a decade for regular checkups, usually involving needles and scans, after doctors successfully treated cancer in his eyes.

The 10-year-old probably owes his life to Children's. His parents, Jennifer and Lauren Good of University Park, are certainly thankful that when Adam was 9 months old, hospital ophthalmologists correctly diagnosed an aggressive cancer in both eyes and successfully fought it using a then-new approach involving chemotherapy and laser treatment.

Today, Adam is a bright fifth-grader who still has both eyes and much of his sight. His annual trips to Children's are for exams to ensure that cancer hasn't cropped up elsewhere.

The Goods say thanks first to their family pediatrician, who did a standard well-baby eye test on Adam. He shined a light into the baby's eyes and got an odd reflex, so he sent Adam to Children's for a complete check. There, ophthalmologists determined that Adam was extremely farsighted because of retinoblastoma, a fast-growing cancer in the retina that kills most of its victims if it escapes the eye.

"In the next several weeks, Adam had an MRI, a spinal tap, a full body scan," his mother said. "I remember thinking, 'This can't be happening!' "

Oncologists at the hospital and retina specialist William Deegan settled on an approach that fought the cancer with chemotherapy, each dose followed almost immediately with a laser treatment that essentially heated the retinal tumors, boosting the chemo.

From July 1998 to January 1999, the Goods followed a weekly routine that would try most babies and their parents. Because the laser portion of each treatment required a general anesthetic, Adam wasn't allowed to eat beforehand. So they would get him out of his crib well after midnight and head to Children's for the two-hour chemotherapy infusion. By about 7 a.m., with a now-hungry baby on their hands, the Goods would drive to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County, where Deegan, who treats adults and children, had set up his laser operation.

"I don't remember much of it," Adam said. "I know I had memorized the route to Children's Hospital when I was a baby"-- a route that would set him to wailing almost as soon as the car was on its way.

"We later learned that only two of the five strains of retinoblastoma respond to this chemotherapy," Jennifer Good said.

The Goods credit the staff in the hematology-oncology unit at Children's for getting the family through a difficult time. One of their favorite nurses, Jeanette Bassett, is still on the unit, and they see her on their visits.

Because retinoblastoma occurs when there is a defect in the 13th chromosome, whose normal role is to suppress tumors, the Goods and Adam's oncologist must be vigilant for signs of any other cancer.

Adam, meanwhile, attends school using devices to help see print and a monocular to help with objects far away. He wears safety goggles when he plays sports. At home, he's a busy designer, transforming his room into a virtual Legoland of intricate contraptions. Most look as if they might fly if they weren't made of plastic blocks.

Jennifer Good has gone back to work, becoming the office assistant at Adam's Mount Rainier private school. Lauren Good has become a stay-at-home dad, having sold his graphics design business a few years back and feeling lucky that he had that option.

"I figure I'll stay home with Adam for the next few years -- until he's about 16 and can't stand the sight of me," he said. "Then I'll go back to work."

How to Help

The Goods are among the legions of families thankful to Children's Hospital for saving their youngsters. We all have much for which to thank this great institution.

One way to show our appreciation is to contribute to this annual campaign. Our goal is to raise $500,000 by Jan. 18. So far, your generous gifts have come to $206,243.99.

To contribute, write a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and send it to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

To donate online using a credit card, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital.

To contribute by phone using Visa or MasterCard, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions. All gifts are tax deductible.

Thank you!

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