WASHINGTON – A 9-year-old boy who nicknamed his brain tumor "Frank" — that's short for Frankenstein (search) — is celebrating the intruder's departure.
"Frank is now dead and gone and never to return," David Dingman-Grover said Tuesday. He was wearing a black T-shirt that read, "Cancer is not who I am."
Biopsy results Tuesday showed the tumor was no longer cancerous.
When the boy from Sterling, Va., outside Washington, was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized tumor in 2003, the family was told the size and location in the center of his skull made it difficult — perhaps impossible — to remove.
Doctors used chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor to the size of a peach pit. That alleviated the child's headaches and temporary blindness, but doctors still needed to remove the tumor.
Traditional brain surgery, called craniotomy, involves cutting through the patient's face and skull. The parents agreed to the operation, but it never occurred — too risky. The tumor was surrounded by three arteries responsible for supplying blood flow to the brain.
David's mother used the Internet to find out about an alternative procedure.
Dr. Hrayr Shahinian of the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles used fiber-optic instruments to remove the tumor through the child's nose in a 1 1/2-hour operation Feb. 2 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"There were no cuts on his face," Shahinian said.
"David would have most likely died if we had done the surgery the other way," said Tiffani Dingman-Grover. "I'm just so grateful that I have the chance to continue to be David's mother."
David will be 10 on March 1 and said he had no doubts he would see this birthday.
"I knew the Lord would guide me through this," he said. "I'm very happy. I just want to go home and live a normal life again." He will spend the coming months recovering from chemotherapy and radiation, which have left his immune system low and his muscles weak.
The surgeon did not charge for the procedure, which normally would cost about $100,000 including hospital fees and anesthesiologists. The family has donated $20,000 they received to a charity to help other children with pediatric cancers.
Asked why he did the surgery for free, the doctor showed reporters a pebble the boy gave him which he now carries in his wallet. On it is the word "courage."