Oncologist shaves head with former patient to raise funds for childhood cancer research


4115stbaldricksbefore640Eighteen years ago, Adam Henderson lost his hair as a result of treatments while battling acute lymphocytic leukemia at Texas Children’s Hospital. As of a few days ago, Henderson is once again bald after participating in the St. Baldrick’s event in The Woodlands with his former pediatric oncologist, Dr. Timothy Porea. Both Porea, clinical director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, and Henderson shaved their heads to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research along with about 60 other participants.

“It is the first time Adam has been bald since he had been treated for his cancer 18 years ago,” said Porea who was a fellow at Texas Children’s Hospital when Henderson was undergoing treatment. “He’s just a great role model for our current patients and their families to show how far you can go when you’re through with these difficult treatments.”

“There were a lot of emotions about being bald again,” Henderson said. “This time, I’m doing it by choice and it’s a joyous occasion because I was able to promote a great cause. When I was sick, I was beat down, it was very difficult when I lost all of my hair.”

Porea has participated in the fundraising and head shaving for the last ten years. He had previously taken part in the events in Virginia. This year, after a move back to Houston, he was excited to call his former patient to join him. Porea and Henderson have kept in touch over the years and are even counselors together at Camp Periwinkle.

4115stbaldricksduring640“It’s more than just a profession to Tim,” Henderson said of his former physician. “It’s true to his character and speaks to where his heart is. He’s an inspiration.”

St. Baldrick’s annual challenge to “Brave the Shave” brings together survivors, patient families, physicians and supporters from across the community to raise funds for childhood cancer research. This year, the nationwide shaving events have raised more than $22 million so far. The foundation was started as a response to the lack in funding for childhood cancer research. According to the organization’s website, while 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, all types of childhood cancers combined receive only 4 percent of the U.S. federal funding for research. The funds raised through St. Baldrick’s have helped fund 820 grants, at 329 institutions, in 22 countries. Several have been given to researchers at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. For Porea, who sees these patients every day, this research is vital to the discovery of better treatments and the possibility for a cure.

“Seeing Adam next to me for this event means we have succeeded, he’s here!” Porea said. “He’s able to do all of these things despite everything he went through as a child. It helps reinforce to me why we all do what we do here every day.”

For Henderson, his new bald look is a conversation starter. Most importantly, it brings attention to a disease he’s all too familiar with.

“At first, the conversation about being bald starts off as kind of a joke with people commenting on my ‘nice haircut’,” Henderson said. “But when I share my story and specifically talk about St. Baldrick’s, it’s impactful. People take it very seriously and there have been a lot of people that have walked away from these conversations with more knowledge and awareness.”

Asked how long he plans to continue shaving his head for childhood cancer research, Porea didn’t hesitate to answer.

“As long as I have hair.”