“Accidental miracle” helped teen beat cancer

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

kvue.com

Posted on February 4, 2013 at 9:52 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 4 at 10:09 PM

CYPRESS, Texas -- He’s the self-proclaimed biggest Texas Longhorn fan in the world who would like to see a miracle turnaround for the struggling football team. But Nolan Conaway, 14, from Cypress, whose bedroom is painted white and burnt orange, will gladly live with the “accidental miracle” he’s been given so far.

Conaway had already been complaining to his parents about headaches long before he and a friend got into a friendly shoving match a year ago.

"We were just rough-housing, tripping each other. And he tripped me really good and I fell,” said Conaway.

He fell on the left side of his head. By the time he got home his mom Candace was immediately worried about the amount of swelling between his left eye and left ear.

“Always trust your gut,” Candace Conaway said of the year of medical visits that followed.

Nolan’s injury wasn’t just a bump on the head; it was cancer. Doctors discovered a fast-growing tumor on the outside of his skull causing swelling outside his skull and pushing inside to his

brain. “You can never overreact in situations like that,” she said. “Always trust your instinct. If you think something's wrong take them in (to the doctor) just in case."

Doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital performed surgery the very next day to remove the golf-ball sized tumor and the fist-sized piece of compromised bone around it. He completed 29 chemotherapy sessions over the course of one year. And just last month, when he was declared completely cancer free, doctors installed a custom implant to replace the piece of skull they removed.

"It's been rough,” said Candace Conaway. “It's been a long journey.”

"It's been a long year for him,” said neurosurgeon Robert Bollo, M.D., with Texas Children’s Hospital and the Baylor College of Medicine. “Having his skull taken apart, having to wear a helmet and go through chemotherapy and he's finally on the other side. So we're really happy for him."

Nolan’s one-year journey had a few other unexpected “miracles.” He got to meet Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. At another event, he posed for pictures with country music star Jason Aldean. And as a Longhorn fan celebrating a now cancer-free life. we asked if he had any advice for his team.

“Yes sir,” the always polite young man responded. But he also laughed, “Fire Mack Brown!”

Nolan hopes to return to middle school next year. Meanwhile, the Conaway family devotes their time to raise awareness about childhood cancer. They are now part of a petition at Change.org asking the NFL and Major League Baseball to consider adopting “gold” as their color of choice during September. Just as “pink” is used to raise awareness for breast cancer research, gold ribbons are used to publicize September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Click here to read the petition.

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