The persistence of joy Teen keeps smiling despite ongoing battle with cancer
Cade Wegener is on his second bout with cancer, but you wouldn’t guess it watching him while he waited for what might be his last radiation treatment.
While the type of treatment Cade received at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City isn’t painful, it does require lying still while invisible atomic particles enter the body and try to kill the cancer. So not every teenager would break into a wide smile at the sight of the technician coming to take him back for a treatment.
“Hey Steve! It’s time!” he shouted over a crowd of relatives gathered to celebrate the end of this round of radiation.
Cade, 15, was diagnosed with undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma in October 2015. The cancer was in his psoas muscle, which connects the hip and spine, his father Chris Wegener said. The first sign something was wrong was when Cade started complaining of hip pain. His son, who has Down syndrome and a bladder condition, had built up a high tolerance for pain from previous medical problems, he said.
Doctors initially thought Cade only had an infection, but an MRI found a tumor near his spine, Wegener said. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. His family hoped the cancer was gone for good, but a routine scan in May 2017 found another tumor nearby, and Cade had to start another round of radiation.
Cade hasn’t experienced many side effects, and he’s held up well on the long drives from the Berryhill community to Oklahoma City for treatment five days a week, Wegener said. He’s made a game out of trying to get truckers to blow their horns, and he made friends with the staff even during the more-draining chemotherapy treatments, he said.
“He finds joy in the smallest things,” he said. “If a kid can joke with the nurses while getting chemo, that’s a special kid.”
To hear Cade tell it, there’s no secret to his positive outlook. It’s just the way he is, and his friends and family help.
“I love to be happy,” he said. “My friends make me happy.”
At least 20 people, many of them wearing matching blue T-shirts made to support Cade during his first round of cancer treatment, gathered for his last treatment session of this round. They won’ t know for several months whether the radiation destroyed the tumor, or if Cade will need chemotherapy again, Wegener said. But he’s confident the family’s religious faith, the community’s support and Cade’s resilience will get them through if the battle isn’t over.
“He really is the toughest kid I know,” he said.
Cade Wegener hugs his mother, April, on Jan. 3 after Cade finished his last round of radiation treatment at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City.
ABOVE: Cade Wegener rings the bell to signify his last day of chemotherapy treatment at ProCure Proton Therapy Center, as his parents, April and Chris, look on in Oklahoma City.
LEFT: Cade hugs his father, Chris, after Cade finished his last round of radiation treatment.