A Utah teenager who has battled a brain tumor for the past 15 years has become San Diego's first pediatric patient to receive a specialized cancer therapy.
Natalie Wright, 17, underwent her final round of proton therapy cancer treatment at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center on Summers Ridge Road Friday morning.
The treatment was first made available to adult patients in San Diego back in February but Wright recently became the first child to receive the therapy.
Wright was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two and has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy. Specialists said this new treatment, however, reached parts of the tumor that previous ones could not.
Wright’s father said her treatment began on June 6. Over the past month, the teen has had 30 treatments – one each morning – lasting about a half-hour each.
On Friday, before returning home to Utah, the teen took a moment to thank the hospital staff.
“I just think that being away from home for six weeks was a long time, and you guys were all so nice. It just made me feel so good, to have that comfort, and to have that love and support,” she said. “I’m just so grateful.”
Wright said she’s felt good throughout the proton therapy process, and her father said that is a huge relief.
“She’s felt good the whole time. That’s the great thing about proton therapy – she really doesn’t feel the effects so that’s a lot different than neurosurgery,” he told NBC 7.
Before leaving, Wright unveiled a piece of superhero artwork that she drew herself, which will stay at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center.
The artwork features a quote from iconic “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve that Wright found on the internet: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Wright is one of less than 900 pediatric patients in the U.S. to receive the proton therapy care this year. The Scripps Proton Therapy Center is the newest of just 15 of its kind nationwide.