A fighting chance

When he was 11, Adam Bradfield spent three grueling years fighting off leukemia. He won. In 2005, the bone cancer came, with tumors reaching around his lungs, hips and sciatic nerve.

Now 21, the Phoenix High School graduate and Medford resident is running out of options — and his family is trying to raise money for an expensive, experimental program starting in February at a children's hospital in Texas.

Doctors began harvesting cells from Adam in August. They will be altered to increase their ability to fight cancer cells and will be injected back into Adam's body during the pioneering trial program at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital of the University of Texas, explained his mother, Robin Bradfield.

The family — Robin and her three children — raised $3,000 at a recent spaghetti feed at PHS, sponsored by cafeteria staff and Jackson County Fire District No. 5, and are welcoming contributions to the Adam Bradfield Fund at any local Sterling Savings Bank. A family friend has set up a donation page on Facebook, which can be found at www.mailtribune.com/adambradfield.

Adam receives Social Security disability benefits and is covered by the Oregon Health Plan, but only in this state, not in Texas. Robin is a hairdresser who owns Jané in Jacksonville, and a daughter, Erika, 19, does nails at the same salon.

Her youngest child, Jackie, 9, "keeps us alive and happy," says Robin.

"The finances are hard. We just live day to day and try not to think about it," she says, speaking of the cost of travel, lodging and meals far from home for an unknown period.

"I have to be with my kid. We have to have each other."

Suffering from osteogenetic sarcoma, Adam at 15 had a full hip replacement and femur transplant, as well as removal of tumors and part of a lung. He quit his beloved baseball, hunting and quad-riding, graduated from PHS and did a year of college before being almost entirely sidelined by the fight for his life.

He's been on chemotherapy for more than a year and recently had a round of radiation in an attempt to control 22 inoperable tumors, including an especially menacing one between his trachea and heart. His chemo drug, Adriamycin, damages the heart if a patient exceeds his lifetime limit — and Adam has. However, at this point, Robin says, it must be done.

"I'm not feeling good lately. We're not sure what's going to happen," says Adam, sitting by his fiancee, Kayla Roberts, 19, whom he met in Future Farmers of America. They will marry Jan. 22.

"It's been hard for everyone, but it's brought us closer together," says Kayla.

The science of oncology is "always coming up with something new," says Robin, noting that her doctors in Oregon don't fully understand the new program they will enter in Texas. However, she adds, Adam has been in trial programs before, at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, where he was selected as the most extreme case — and it did well.

The trial provides drugs without cost, but other medical costs must be paid for, she says. It uses immune suppressants to allow survival of re-injected cells and requires cessation of chemo.

"It's something so new ... we're unsure what's going to happen," says Robin.

Adam was studying physical therapy at Linn-Benton Community College and would like to get back to it someday.

"He's very strong-willed," says Robin. "He doesn't give up. He's my hero."

But right now, the focus is on survival — and getting to Texas.

Wiping away tears, Robin says, "We have no other options now."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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