Ben Brewer to get cancer-fighting vaccine

9NEWS @ 4. 9/6.2016

AURORA - I always say the favorite stories I've produced at 9NEWS are the ones about people who are overcoming a lot with a gracious and positive attitude.

And I believe that those who present themselves that way will be rewarded, someday, somehow.

It may now be Ben Brewer's time.

Since Ben was 2-years-old, he has been fighting cancer. Ben is now 15.

After more than a year of hoping and waiting, Ben is about to begin a clinical trial for a drug that could keep the cancer from returning.. ever.

"It's been a long time coming," Ben said. "I'm very happy and excited but there's always that fear of something bad keeps happening. I'm scared it might happen again. I just have to maintain my hope and keep my hopes up."

Ben has fought neuroblastoma five times. It is a cancer that first presents itself in the adrenal glands and then spreads. It is one of those diseases that tries to outsmart the body. It usually returns, many times.

Ben can't recall exactly how many rounds of chemotherapy he has had in the last 13 years.

I first met Ben in 2014, when the cancer had returned.  That time around, Ben chose an experimental treatment.  He decided to have liquid radiation injected into his body.

Ben was essentially radioactive for a weekend. The red headed, freckled-face boy was kept in isolation in a special room at Children's Hospital Colorado.  Like any middle-school aged boy, he spent the time playing video games and eating Doritos.

That aggressive therapy worked and wiped out the cancer.  Ben was headed for a clinical trial into a vaccine that would essentially keep neuroblastoma from every coming back.  One must be free of cancer to take part in this clinical trial.

But then, there was a shortage of the vaccine.

As frustrating as that was, Ben was patient and also proactive. He and his family spent months, flying back and forth to New York for a therapy that was supposed to keep him healthy as he waited.

When that therapy was over in September of 2015, the vaccine supplies had improved and Ben was on the fast-track to starting the trial.

Ben had one more round of scans just to make sure he was still cancer-free and able to start this vaccine trial.

Those scans showed cancer was back in Ben's body, in five places.

Over this last year, Ben has undergone five rounds of intense chemotherapy which required him to be hospitalized. He is currently free of cancer.

RELATED: Ben Brewer's continued cancer fight

"It's unfortunate that we've been at this for 12-and-a-half years but at the same time, we're fortunate we've been at this for 12 and a half years," Sarah Brewer said. "A lot of kiddos do not make it this far. Ben is tenacious. He keeps on going and keeps fighting."

Ben is feeling great these days and able to spend more days in school than he has in past years.

As a freshman at Cherokee Trail High School, Ben is stepping up his workouts as he gets ready for wrestling team tryouts in November. He is also preparing to get his driver's permit.

First up though, Ben leaves on Sunday for New York City to start a year-long study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He will go through some tests and then, get his first three injections of the vaccine.

The family will go back and forth between Denver and New York over the year for vaccine injections.

"We know that without treatment, neuroblastoma will come back," Ben's mom Sarah Brewer said on a GoFundMe page, "We simply can't have that. This therapy is our best option."

Sarah Brewer also writes about their journey on the "I Love the Bean" Facebook page.

"I can't wait for his red hair to grow back," Sarah Brewer said. "I think I miss his eyebrows the most."

I too look forward to seeing all his hair grow back. However, he'll never be just like that little boy I met a few years ago. Ben Brewer has become a young man who is wise and strong but also funny and kind.  He is a survivor. He is a friend.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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