When Trevor Duhon talks to families coping with a child who has cancer, he urges them to stay positive. "I try to convey the importance of not giving up," he said. "Treatment's hard, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
It's no idle pep talk. The 21-year-old Duhon is living proof of that light. He was 11 when he was diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), a form of brain and spinal cancer.
Duhon entered the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children a week before Christmas of 2001. Under the care of pediatric oncologist Rene Y McNall-Knapp, M.D., he underwent an intensive 30-day regimen of morning chemotherapy followed by radiation in the afternoons. The intensive treatment was part of a worldwide study involving 70 patients.
"I knew we had to do it," recalled Duhon. "I wasn't really scared. My parents were more scared than I was. I think I only cried one time during treatment, when I couldn't go play with my friends. I stayed pretty positive throughout the entire thing."
Treatment gradually tapered off. Checkups with McNall-Knapp decreased from every three months to three times a year, and eventually to once a year. Duhon's cancer has been in remission for nearly 10 years.
But that doesn't mean he isn't a familiar face at the Jimmy Everest Center. Shortly after Duhon's treatment began to wind down, he and his mother, Donna, were volunteering their time at the clinic. That was nine years ago, and they're still going strong.
Now Duhon is also studying to be a lab technician. His objective is to work in the very facility that saved his life years ago.
"One day, I'll be able to draw the labs and help out in the background with assisting in diagnosis and treatment," he said. "That's my goal."