Thursday, April 13, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Frank the tumor is gone, and the 11-year-old Sterling, Va., boy who named his dangerous foe after the Frankenstein monster proudly showed off karate kicks yesterday and chatted about school, even though he still suffers effects of his therapy.

David Dingman-Grover, whose battle with Frank drew national concern, got a clean bill of health from the surgeon who removed the cancerous mass a year ago.

“I feel great,” David said. “After it just went away, I was just, like, so proud, and I was happy because a lot of people I knew were really scared for me.

“I don’t think about it at all. I think about mostly, like, just getting on with my life, getting on with the next day,” he said.

The boy was diagnosed in May 2003 with a grapefruit-sized tumor at the base of his brain that was causing blindness and headaches. He nicknamed it after the monster that used to scare him.

Frank the tumor gained national attention when David’s mother created “Frank Must Die” bumper stickers, which the family auctioned on EBay to defray medical costs.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments shrank it to the size of a peach pit, and in February 2005 an operation was performed to remove the rest.

Biopsies and MRI scans concluded that the boy’s brain is now cancer-free, although he must continue to be monitored for five years, said Dr. Hrayr Shahinian of the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles.

He performed a neurological and physical examination of the boy earlier this week and pronounced him healthy.

“As best as we can tell today, a year out, he is free of his monster,” Dr. Shahinian said.

However, children who undergo radiation therapy have a higher risk of developing other types of cancer, so “we must be vigilant,” Dr. Shahinian said.

He added, however, that David’s outcome looks bright.

“I am very confident that I will be at David’s wedding one of these days,” he said.

David was given a giant golden key to Disneyland, where he and his parents were to be treated today. The boy is a roller-coaster enthusiast, and he said he is looking forward to trying new rides.

The fourth-grader also has taken up karate in Sterling, where he is a senior blue belt. He turned 11 on March 1, and during a birthday party at his karate school, he cut the cake with a samurai sword.

“I really kick real hard,” he said.

“I’m almost able to do splits,” he added proudly. “And I can put my ankle behind my head.”

David, however, did suffer problems from the radiation and chemotherapy he received. There is a chance he may need lifelong hormone therapy because of damage to his pituitary gland, said his father, Bryan Grover.

The treatment also destroyed some of his hair and teeth, and he recently had major dental work. In addition, his immune system was impaired. He gets sick often — in February he spent a week in the hospital — and just got over bronchitis, his father said.

“He’s still sick a lot,” his father said. “But compared to a year ago when they were telling us, go buy a coffin, this is fine. We’ll take this.”

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