Five years. For a child five years can be a long time.
For Alex Kline five years meant his mom got to attend his kindergarten graduation. It was the difference between the vague memory of his mom that might stick with a preschool child and a 10 year old with memories that could last – and in some ways shape – a lifetime.
When Alex was five years old his mom Mary was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The now 19-year-old Syracuse University student recently recalled that the family first suspected something was wrong on a vacation to Disney World when his mom kept falling for no apparent reason.
A Diagnosis of Glioblastoma
Mary Kline was diagnosed with glioblastoma – an aggressive form of brain cancer with an average survival of less than two years from diagnosis.
The family turned to Jefferson and respected oncologic neurosurgeon David W. Andrews, MD. Dr. Andrews performed surgery to remove the tumor in January of 2000. That was followed by radiation therapy.
The tumor, however, recurred and Dr. Andrews performed a second craniotomy later that year. And based on research performed at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience – one of the most experienced and busiest brain tumor centers in the country – Mary underwent another round of radiation therapy.
“My clinical and research focuses are caring for patients with brain tumors and finding better treatments for people with brain cancer,” Dr. Andrews explains.
“For example, Jefferson was the first to use a linear accelerator for boost stereotactic radiotherapy in patients with malignant brain tumors who failed standard therapy,” he notes. “We showed that higher doses of focused beam radiation delivered using precision ‘hypofractionated’ targeting are safe, well tolerated and improved patient outcomes.”
The results of that research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology were that radiation therapy extends the lives of patients like Mary.
But five years after her initial diagnosis and operation, Mary died as a result of her cancer. Alex was 10 years old. Now as a college student, Alex remembers his mother and both the good and bad parts of those five years.
Mostly, however, he remembers his mom.
“Through it all, through the treatments, through the physical and emotional challenges, my mom did her best to be there for me,” Alex says. “Despite everything she was going through she made sure I knew how much she loved me.”
Today, Alex has made a name for himself as a whiz kid at picking talented high school basketball players and, as The New York Times notes, a “highly authoritative observer of the college basketball recruiting.”
Raising Brain Cancer Awareness
He has also taken on brain cancer and brain cancer research as a cause. While he was still in high school, Alex created the Mary Kline Classic – a showcase of the nation’s top high school basketball players with two All-Star games and other activities – to raise awareness of brain cancer and support research to beat the disease that took his mother.
“My mom’s legacy isn’t the cancer, her legacy is her fight against the cancer,” he says. “That fight continues with the Mary Kline Classic and our effort to help find better treatments for brain cancer and ultimately a cure.”
The 4th Annual Mary Kline Classic will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, 2014, at West Orange High School in West Orange, New Jersey. For more information, visit http://maryklineclassic.com.