Aug 15, 2011 12:25 AM by Matt Stafford

Local high school student fighting cancer, one step at a time

"Back to school" is a busy time for every family, but it's been a whirlwind for the Leonards from Colorado Springs. They just got back into town Friday from Houston, where their oldest son, Shane, has been receiving treatment for a rare form of cancer -- an Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma.

They started noticing on a lump on Shane's neck two-and-a-half years ago through one of his hobbies, playing the violin.

"When you play violin sometimes you get a little hickey on your neck," says Shane Leonard. "We thought maybe it's just kind of a weird violin hickey or something."

Unfortunately that wasn't the case. After checking with several doctors they found it was a cancerous tumor. That was a total shock.

"I've never been sick, you know seriously sick, or had any health issues," says Shane.

"You know, normal check-ups his whole life, and so.... I just kept thinking they don't have it right," adds Faith Leonard, Shane's mom.

Doctors looked farther and found out that the cancer hadn't spread much; it was taken out, but microscopic traces of cancer could still be found in Shane's neck. So in April the family weighed their options, and ended up moving to Houston so Shane could undergo a proton radiation therapy at MD Anderson.

The whole family made the trip.

"We couldn't have just left the kids, it wasn't just a couple week thing," says Faith.

Shane's three brothers wouldn't have had it any other way, even giving up there own summer plans -- like baseball and camps -- to be with big brother through all 33 radiation treatments.

Now with the radiation cycle behind him, Shane and his family are home; getting ready for another school year. Looking back, it's hard to sum up everything they've been through.

"When I think about my experience with cancer I think about the little steps that we took on the way to fight it; not really necessarily the fact that cancer was in my body," says Shane.

The cancer is out, for now, but Shane's been told it could come back at any time. Shane's mother says she was told by doctors that this type of cancer has a strong chance of reoccurrence around ten years after the original diagnosis, so this is something they will have to closely monitor for the rest of his life. They say that's a process they'll take just like they have the rest of it, one step at a time.

Shane is entering his senior year at Rampart High School, and he points out that's a busy time for high school students. However, Shane is taking it all in stride. He originally scheduled to take college entrance exams at home, but after his diagnosis and decision to move to Houston he rescheduled the tests to take them there... while fighting cancer. He scored perfectly on the Math section of the SAT, as well as near perfect scores in Physics and Chemistry. He also took the ACT, and even though he got a bloody nose during the test, he finished one point away from a perfect score. Shane says that was his way of fighting back; showing that cancer wasn't going to get him down.

It looks like Shane has a bright future ahead.


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