Omaha family thankful for successful cancer treatments, looks to future

For months, they knew something was wrong. By October, they got news no family wants to hear.
It's Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and we take this moment to raise awareness and look to the future of cancer treatment.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 7:07 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Last year Grace Loftus and her parents were in search of answers, answers to her frequent and debilitating headaches.

For months, they knew something was wrong. By October, they got news no family wants to hear. Cancer. Medulloblastoma.

“Of course, it’s not the diagnosis that anybody wishes for. But I’m glad that we were able to figure it out in a timely manner and get the treatment that we needed,” said Grace’s dad, Brandon Weeks.

Doctors removed the tumor in her brain. Grace, 10 years old, also underwent multiple rounds of radiation and chemotherapy over the course of just a few months. But these treatments are harsh on the body.

“Currently we use chemotherapy and radiation, which kills anything that’s growing quickly. And so that kills the cancer cells but it also kills other parts of the body that are needed to function. So that’s why we see kids lose their hair. They have trouble with blood counts...other effects on their organs,” said Dr. Jill Beck, division chief of Oncology at Children’s Hospital.

Some side effects that Grace felt were fevers and nausea.

“I threw up a lot,” she said.

She also didn’t like the process of chemotherapy.

“I just didn’t like to be touched. And I don’t like the tubes being pulled or touched by other people,” she said.

Thanks to treatment, Grace no longer has any evidence of the disease, and there’s hope that in the future kids won’t have to suffer through the same side effects she did.

Right now, Children’s Hospital and UNMC are partnering on research that could make treatment easier on the body.

“We’re working really hard to figure out what the medications are that we can use that will target those diseases more directly and have less side effects,” said Dr. Beck.

“Not having to wipe everything out and just target those specific cells, I think it would make a world of a difference,” said Grace’s mom, Kayleigh Weeks.

According to the American Cancer Society, survival rates of childhood cancer have gotten significantly better since the 1970s, going from a five-year or more survival rate of 58% in the 70s to now an 85% rate. Still, there’s more work to be done.

For now, Grace and her family say they’re just thankful she’s better and back to school.

“I like learning new things in math. And I like art class.” She said she also likes being around her friends.