In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 21, 2018

Three-Year-Old Patient Takes Break From Proton Therapy to Talk Trash

By In the Loop

At just 3 years old, Reid Gleeson's passion is quite unique. He loves all things garbage. Mayo staff recently pulled some strings so Reid could get an insider's look at the world of garbage.

When it comes to birthday party themes, the preschool set tends to gravitate toward princesses and superheroes. But not Reid Gleeson. "For his third birthday we had a garbage party," Reid's mom, Megan Gleeson, says. "He loves all things garbage." Megan tells us Reid watches garbage truck videos on YouTube and can name the different types of trucks he sees. He has his own garbage can, a gift from neighbors. And every Monday — garbage day at the Gleeson's Davenport, Iowa, home — you can count on Reid peeking out the window as the garbage truck makes its way down the street.

That routine was interrupted when Reid began proton beam therapy treatment for medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor. He was diagnosed when he was just 2 and received high-dose chemotherapy at the University of Iowa. Doctors believed the cancer was in remission. But in June, the Gleesons learned the cancer had returned. They immediately headed for Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus.

"We didn't even have an appointment," Megan says. "Mayo went above and beyond to get Reid started with treatment quickly." And that treatment quickly made a difference for Reid. "When we arrived, he could hardly walk," Megan says. "He'd tell me, 'Mommy, I want to be done falling down.'" That changed within days of Reid's first dose of proton beam therapy. "He's had a huge response to treatment," Megan says. "He's gotten his independence back. He's running, jumping and playing again."

Seeing that has been good medicine for Megan and her husband, William, who worried about the impact six weeks of daily treatments would have on their son. "I thought Reid would come here kicking and screaming every day," Megan says. "But he loves it. It's been a great experience for him, which makes it so much easier on us. Everyone here is so kid-first. They make things fun. Every day they're asking us what they can do differently for Reid."

Recently, staff even arranged for Reid to get a garbage fix. Nancy Heinzelman, patient experience coordinator at the Proton Therapy Center, made calls to the Olmsted County Waste-to-Energy Facility and to McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing, which manufactures garbage trucks. Both were eager to give Reid an insider's experience, and they were rewarded with glowing reviews.

"As soon as he came to the front door he was squealing," Kelli McConahey, senior marketing representative for McNeilus, tells us. "We'd pulled some trucks out for him and he knew the names of the different models and told us which kind came to his house. Some of our engineers showed him how to work things on the trucks. It was fun for all of us to see him get so excited. We were so happy to be able to do that for him."

Which made Reid's mom and dad happy, too. "We try to make each day fun for Reid," Megan says. "We're grateful for the time we have with him. We do whatever we can to make him happy."

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Tags: Medulloblastoma, Patient Stories, Proton Beam Therapy

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