The teenager who won a court fight to forgo chemotherapy is coming home to Virginia this week, feeling energetic and hopeful that five weeks of an alternative treatment will help him defeat cancer.
"I'm feeling wonderful," said Abraham Cherrix, 16, who has Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. "There's a pretty good chance that I am cancer-free."
Abraham underwent treatment with low doses of radiation, which he said was bearable but made him queasy, but shrank the tennis-ball-sized tumor in his neck to the circumference of a half dollar. The tumor in his chest similarly has decreased, he said.
He also underwent immunotherapy, which strengthens the immune system through supplements and food, Abraham said Monday by phone after completing his course of treatment at North Central Mississippi Regional Cancer Center in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Abraham said he will have a CT scan in Virginia in two months to monitor his condition, and he will return to Mississippi for a checkup with the center's medical director and radiation oncologist, Dr. Arnold Smith, a month after that. Abraham's tumors shrank after chemotherapy at a Norfolk hospital last year but later returned.
"You keep your fingers crossed. He seems to be doing well," said Abraham's father, Jay Cherrix, of Chincoteague, Virginia. He added, "It's not like having a cold and you take antibiotics for it. This is a formidable enemy that is relentless in its mission to harm you."
Cherrix said the family has confidence in Smith and that Abraham looks good, feels good and has a good appetite; the tall, skinny teen said he has gained several pounds.
"This little boy has been through an awful lot and he's remarkably resilient," Cherrix said. "I think he's going to have a nice long life, and that makes me very happy."
Abraham was happy that his treatment under Smith did not include chemotherapy. He had been so sickened by three months of chemotherapy that he declined a second, more intensive round that doctors recommended early this year.
His then-oncologist alerted social services officials when Abraham chose to go on a sugar-free, organic diet and use the Hoxsey tonic, an alternative liquid herbal treatment that is banned from sale in the United States. The American Cancer Society says there is no scientific evidence that Hoxsey is effective in treating cancer.
At an August court hearing, Abraham's attorneys and social services officials reached a resolution to allow the teenager to forgo chemotherapy and let him be treated by an oncologist of his choice who is board-certified in radiation therapy and interested in alternative treatments.
The family must provide the court updates on Abraham's treatment and condition every three months until he is cured, or turns 18, and notify the court immediately if treatment is discontinued.