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Child recovering from brain cancer treatment to return to school

Third-grader was diagnosed with two brain tumors a year ago this month.

December 02, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Luke French, 8, at the Heroes for Hope walk where his family and friends helped to raise more than $12,000 for brain tumor research for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Luke is recently recovering from chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell treatments after doctors found he had two brain tumors when he was seven years old.
Luke French, 8, at the Heroes for Hope walk where his family… (Photo Courtesy…)

In January, 8-year-old Luke French will return to Lincoln Elementary after spending much of the past year recovering from cancer treatments that tested his strength and set him on a path toward recovery.

In early December 2012, an MRI scan revealed two malignant tumors growing on Luke's brain. Weeks before the scan, Luke would unexpectedly throw up at school or at home, with the sudden illness taking hold of him as quickly as it seemed to leave, puzzling everyone around him.

After hearing the diagnosis, Luke's parents were shocked.

“It's nothing you ever really expect to go through as a parent,” Luke's mother, Lisa, said.

For more than the next six months, Luke received a series of chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell treatments at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Luke's parents turned to family and friends, and prayer, they said.

“You realize it's completely out of your control,” his father, Bill, added. “It's a day-to-day journey.”

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Now nearly a year after his diagnosis, Luke's hair has begun to grow back and his immune system is strong enough for him to return to Lincoln Elementary next month and reunite with his third-grade classmates.

Over the past year, his parents say they are grateful for the team of doctors and nurses, family and friends who have supported them, and helped care for their younger son, Ryan, who is 6.

“You see a lot of incredible blessings in the midst of difficult times,” Lisa French said. “You saw a lot of caring wonderful people, nurses…doctors who are unbelievable…you see the strength of other families coping with it and getting through...you just do it.”

Luke, a young USC Trojan and Dodger fan, also won support from professional sports stars. Once, Dodger player Clayton Kershaw mailed him a letter of encouragement and a personally signed baseball.

While receiving care at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Luke met NFL quarterback Matt Leinart, who was visiting young patients at the hospital. Then on a separate occasion, NFL quarterback Matt Barkley visited Luke after hearing he was a huge fan. During their nearly hourlong visit, Luke and Barkley did push-ups together and talked about life's challenges.

“He said, ‘You keep fighting on and know that God's with you and that you'll get through this,” Bill French recalled Barkley saying.

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