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THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Boy fights rare brain tumor for 2nd time

By Deborah Allard
The Herald News / October 22, 2011

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FALL RIVER, Mass.—It was all cheers for Matthew Beaudry, probably the tiniest pitcher ever to raise his arm and throw the first ball for the Southcoast Knights baseball team at Thomas Chew Park.

Beaudry, 4, is an honorary member of the team. He likes baseball, video games and playing with little green Army men.

To his mom, he's one in a million.

But Matthew really is one in a million. Just one in 1 million children is diagnosed with the rare type of brain tumor Matthew has, and just one in 2 million survives the cancer, goes into remission and has the tumor come back.

"It's unreal," said Matthew's mother, Stephanie Beaudry. "I think, `Why don't I have the answers? Why can't I make him better?'"

Matthew was first diagnosed at 7 1/2 months old with a pineal blastoma -- a tumor located in the middle part of the brain in an area that produces a hormone that may affect puberty and development.

Beaudry didn't know at the time, but it pains her to think that her son's frequent crying as a baby was probably due not to colic, but constant headaches.

The worst happened when something that resembled a viral infection made Matthew sick. When pediatric doctors hydrated Matthew, a pressure built up in his brain. Testing and scans revealed the tumor.

"His brain was being crushed by spinal fluid," Beaudry said. "The tumor was bigger than a baseball. Me and his father just held each other and cried."

Three days later, Matthew had his first surgery at Hasbro Children's Hospital.

"They didn't think he'd make it through the night," Beaudry said.

It took another two surgeries to implant a shunt to reduce pressure and fluids in the brain.

Then, Matthew had six chemotherapy treatments, interspersed with three stem-cell transplants.

"He was the first child to make it to three (stem cell transplants)," Beaudry said. "He was so little and so sick."

Matthew's first birthday came and went, but the grief of his disease was far from bitter. He was alive.

There was no explanation for why or how he got the rare tumor. For the next two years, Beaudry and her husband, Matthew hoped the tumor wouldn't come back. All of Matthew's MRI's, every three months, were clean. They were told that it would be rare if the tumor recurred.

But, during the third year, in September 2010, a shadow appeared on the MRI. By April of this year, it doubled in size.

"It's close to impossible," Beaudry said. "There's no written protocol."

Matthew had surgery to remove the tumor, and is currently in treatment. He is getting steady doses of chemotherapy, and this time, went through six weeks of radiation. He was too young for radiation during his last bout with cancer. Chemotherapy treatments are expected to last until the fall of next year.

"He's been through a lot," Beaudry said. "He had scars and burns from the radiation."

During the summer, Matthew had been playing tee-ball for the Cal Ripken Division at Maplewood Park. Despite having surgery, he got to play the last two games.

Matthew is small for his age and has lost his hair. But despite being sick, he is incredibly alert and smart.

Beaudry said he's regressed a bit since this last bout with cancer. He was in preschool and could write his name and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

"He was ahead for his age," she said.

Without school, Beaudry said Matthew has forgotten some of what he learned. But, she's hopeful. Matthew won't be 5 until January, and kindergarten will give him time to relearn.

During the past few months, Matthew has received a lot of attention.

He was named the ambassador of children with cancer for the city of Fall River at the Rhode Island State House. It named a child, each a patient of Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, to each community in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. He was given a bravery medal and a proclamation.

A local motorcycle run and benefit dinner were also held in his honor to help the family with medical and other costs, such as truck repairs to drive Matthew to his appointments in Providence.

Beaudry had to leave her job as a teacher's assistant when Matthew's cancer recurred. His father, a welder, recently had his hours cut at work.

On Tuesday, Beaudry learned there was swelling in Matthew's brain from the radiation. Doctors performed a spinal tap as a precaution. They won't get results for a few days. But the fluid was clear, which is a good sign, according to Beaudry.

"All we can do really, is to hope," Beaudry said.

A fund has been set up at Citizens' Bank, located in most local Stop & Shop locations, for Matthew. Those who would like to make a donation can make it to "Smiles for Matthew." It can be used as a deduction when filing income taxes.