Royal Oak — Hudson Brown’s head hurt so badly, he screamed in pain.
His parents rushed him to a nearby emergency room. The diagnosis was devastating: brain cancer. Specifically, medulloblastoma.
A large tumor had developed in the back of his brain and on top of his brain stem. Medulloblastoma is a long word with too many syllables to be attached to a five-year-old boy from Grosse Pointe Farms.
“One day, my five-year-old is going to pre-K, and the next day his whole world is turned upside down,” said his mom, Megan Brown, 36.
Before Hudson’s diagnosis, his headaches could be managed by over-the-counter medicines. But their intensity grew, prompting an MRI and a CT scan at St. John Hospital & Medical Center’s emergency room on Moross in Detroit revealed the cancer.
Hudson underwent surgery that removed 90 percent of the tumor at St. John, and his mom said the doctors they consulted suggested radiation therapy at Beaumont’s new Proton Therapy Center in Royal Oak, which opened in June, to be the next step of his treatment. It is one of only 28 in the country and the only operational facility of its kind in Michigan.
“We felt so blessed that the center is only 30 miles from our house,” Megan said.
Dr. Peter Chen, Hudson’s radiation oncologist at the Proton Therapy Center, said the tumor caused Hudson to have typical symptoms, including unsteady gait, headache and vomiting.
“As well, he had confusion, not being able to recognize his parents,” Chen said.
Over a six-week period — five days a week — Hudson received 30 treatments.
Proton beam therapy — a radiation method that uses protons to treat the cancer — was the best decision for Hudson, according to Dr. Peyman Kabolizadeh, clinical director of Beaumont’s Proton Therapy Center, who said, “You can think of proton as more of a targeted treatment.”
“It resulted in decreasing the dose to adjacent critical organs, which are in developing growing phase in this patient,” he said.
Friday marked the last day of proton beam therapy. To celebrate, he was treated to a surprise “Transformers” party. Hudson is a huge “Transformers” fan, and he particularly loves the Bumblebee character.
So he arrived at the center with great fanfare. A state police squad car with flashing lights led the way. It was followed by Hudson riding in a yellow Bumblebee-styled Challenger with the Transformer joining him, followed by a caravan of more than 20 Camaros from local clubs.
When the Challenger pulled up in front of the Proton Center, the Transformer exited and opened the back door for Hudson and his mom. Hudson hung onto his mom’s hand while staff, friends and family members cheered and applauded him.
Once inside the center, Hudson was escorted to a large golden “end of treatment” bell, where he grabbed the cord and vigorously rang it. Nurses and other staff, along with friends and family applauded, took photos and wiped away tears.
Hudson also was treated to a video message from “Transformers” movie star Mark Wahlberg, who also provided hamburgers, Hudson’s favorite food, for guests to enjoy.
“Stay strong, buddy,” Wahlberg said in the video. “You are an inspiration to everyone. God bless you. I love you, stay strong, and I look forward to meeting you soon.”
Hudson has two sisters — Cece, 2; and Emmy, 7 — and a dad, Patrick, 34, who shaved his own head to match Hudson’s.
“When his hair started falling out, I told him he could buzz cut mine,” Patrick said. “As long as his head is bald, mine will be bald, too.”
Hudson will next have chemotherapy at St. John after a four-week break.
Chen said Hudson has a “minor amount of unsteady gait, which, with physical rehabilitation, should steadily improve.”
“The proton therapy should decrease the risk of any treatment-related secondary cancer in Hudson over the next several decades,” Chen said.