Childhood brain tumor survivor dreams of curing cancer

San Antonio resident Tony Castro was only seven years old when he started showing the first signs of a childhood brain tumor. He began feeling nauseated in Nov. 2013, and even vomited occasionally. But because it was cold and flu season, the thought of cancer never entered his mother’s mind. “Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize it, and I took it really hard,” Lilliana Castro says. “I’m an ICU nurse, and I just beat myself up because I didn’t pick up on it. But he didn’t have any neurological symptoms.” An ependymoma diagnosis Lilliana took her son to a pediatrician, who diagnosed him with a viral infection. He was told to get rest and drink plenty of fluids. But he didn’t get better. Over the next several months, Tony became tired frequently and he slept a lot more than usual. He was also much less physically active, which was strange for a boy normally so passionate about mixed martial arts. In May 2014, Tony began suffering from headaches, too, so his mother took him back to the doctor. A brain scan finally revealed the cause: a childhood brain tumor, or more specifically, stage III anaplastic ependymoma. “I didn’t eat, and I didn’t sleep,” Lilliana says of the days following her son’s diagnosis. “I was crying all night and all day. I kept asking myself, ‘Why?’ I was put here to help people, to get them better, and here is my child with a prognosis that I know as a nurse is really, really bad. All I kept thinking about was death.” The road to MD Anderson and healing Tony had surgery...